NASA

Garver on commercial crew, compromise, cooperation, and China

When NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver started her keynote speech Thursday morning at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, New Mexico, she said she thought for a moment before accepting the invitation to speak. “As you may be aware, I have a bit of a reputation for favoring those issues being discussed at this conference, personal and commercial spaceflight,” she said. “For some reason a lot of folks think I have my thumb on the scale for you guys in Washington.” While she said that she did have a long history in the commercial space field, “I would argue that my policy work over the years has been pretty balanced,” ranging from consulting for major aerospace companies to, when she was at the National Space Institute in the 1980s, being “considered an absolute stooge of the aerospace industry by the L-5 Society.”

Much of her speech focused on the recently-passed NASA authorization bill. “This is a bipartisan bill. I believe that deserves recognition,” she said, referring to the relatively contentious, partisan atmosphere today. “It is a compromise, we recognize that,” she added later. “No one ever gets everything they want in politics, and the administration’s proposals were seen by so many as a dramatic shift. This is significant progress, and in a very, very short period of time.”

One area of compromise, of course, is in commercial crew development, where the authorization bill includes about $2 billion less from 2011 through 2013 than in the president’s proposal. “The healthy $1.3 billion for commercial transportation activities over the three-year period is a lot more than we’ve spent in the past,” she said. “This is a real start.”

The challenge now, she said, is to implement the policies supported in the bill, including eventually transitioning the launch of NASA astronauts to commercial providers. “We now need to trust others,” she said. “But have we done it before? Yes, and in so many ways,” such as relying on companies to launch critical NASA space science missions. She indicated later that transition won’t be easy for the agency. “We often say we want to turn our more routine activities over to the private sector. But that’s hard for people at NASA; we do not see transporting people to space as routine.”

The success of commercial crew, and NASA’s new direction overall, requires bringing together both entrepreneurial and established aerospace companies, she concluded. “How can we together merge those histories, merge the braintrust that is the space community?” she asked. “We will only succeed if we utilize all of our resources.”

During the Q&A after her speech, she was asked about one other recent hot issue, administrator Charles Bolden’s trip to China. She said Bolden was on his way back from China on Thursday and that he “truly believed that he accomplished his objectives, which were purely to meet and start getting to know the leadership of the Chinese space community, and to start learning about their program.”

193 comments to Garver on commercial crew, compromise, cooperation, and China

  • CharlesHouston

    The switch to using more commercial boosters and soon commercial capsules is a good one, too bad it was so mis-managed. At least now the real leaders of NASA are the adults in Sen Nelson’s and Sen Hutchison’s and Sen Shelby’s offices. We should hope it stays that way, and the amateurs led by Lori can just jet around making speeches.

  • Robert G. Oler

    What is key in the policy is a couple of things…some I think were by design and others just happy circumstance.

    First: it is the end of the shuttle, its infrastructure and any ability to derive knock off vehicles from it.

    Supporting the shuttle system has drained NASA financially and of any notion of innovation. 15000 people to fly a vehicle is just to many people…if it cannot be done with less (and it can) then it cannot be done.

    Second “the gap” while a Griffin thing; is really a good thing. The gap allows other groups in the US to start to define human spaceflight; its needs and how it is done. Soon Virgin will be routinly flying people who get the title “astronaut”, SpaceX will be flying people capable vehicles…and Boeing in particular will start seeing how the new “order” is going and will find themselves how cheaply things can be built and flown.

    As all this occurs the notion of the NASA HSF way of doing things (lots of people endless goofy engineering) will fade into “we cant afford that”…

    Third…eventually (and in this decade) there will be private space stations. Two universities (that I know of) are already making moves to work with Bigelow to secure space on his station…and the instant people start flying in space to a station that is not run with thousands of people on the ground, then ISS starts to change as a matter of necessity.

    Human spaceflight is poised for changes that will give it breakout capability in our economy and culture.

    Robert G.Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    CharlesHouston wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Nelson, Hutchinson, Shelby and their staffs have been the village idiots in this debate

    Robert G. Oler

  • CharlesHouston

    My neighbor Robert feels that the Senatorial staffs have been the village idiots, but we could ask – who won? Was Orion actually cancelled as proposed in the February announcement? Who was Lori recently quoted as lavishing praise on – could it be Sen Shelby of Alabama???
    You may consider them village idiots but we all know who wrote the authorization bill – and who will control the next one.

  • Robert G. Oler

    CharlesHouston wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 11:12 am

    who won? Charlie and lori did…its that simple

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZU6lE7pAXIo&feature=player_embedded#!

    Shannon seems to say that they need an extra 600 million to fly the LON as a mission…

    LOL

    Robert

  • “You may consider them village idiots but we all know who wrote the authorization bill – and who will control the next one.”

    I’ll grant you Nelson. I disagreed with him on a lot, but he wasn’t hysterically declaring the end of US manned spaceflight aside from perhaps the very earliest days of Obama’s FY2011 budget.

    Shelby and Hutchinson are a different matter. If they had gotten their ‘adult’ way with the authorization bill we’d have been right back to dumping billions a year on a rocket program that seems perpetually 7 years from completion. We’d also be back to zero precursor missions and an HLV slotted for mid next decade at best. The compromise, crafted by far more than three senators, is a whole lot closer to Obama’s plans than to Shelby’s plans.

    I’m glad we’ve got a short-term HLV and that we kept Orion. I think those were both better than Obama’s original statements. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that was even remotely the agenda of the aforementioned senators. They didn’t aim for this, they settled for it. And we have a much better chance of a robust human exploration program as a result.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iIPSk7oNZC-iAiT5UA2DB3_tynww?docId=CNG.47b318413c59ab446cfe2d6e9a654c5a.1061

    this is far more important news then just about anything else in the human spaceflight world…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Christopher Howard

    Can you imagine a political system more robust than ours? We have a great space program, best in the world, now it’s even better.

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    “http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iIPSk7oNZC-iAiT5UA2DB3_tynww?docId=CNG.47b318413c59ab446cfe2d6e9a654c5a.1061

    this is far more important news then just about anything else in the human spaceflight world…”

    You are so right! It is funny in a very sad kind of way to see this happening while at the same time NASA is whining about the disappearance of 1960 Shuttle technology… Amazing! VG is the way of the future for HSF, if they succeed! Go Virgin Go! Or should I say Godspeed VG?

  • Mike Snyder

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Why? I certainly is a great thing and it is certainly important but I also believe it is necessary otherwise to keep things in perspective.

  • common sense

    @Mike Snyder wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    “Why? I certainly is a great thing and it is certainly important but I also believe it is necessary otherwise to keep things in perspective.”

    Why? WHY? You don’t understand why? How about you may fly one of their ship “tomorrow”? Does that make sense for you? If if you cannot see the impact of regular people going to space on HSF then too bad for you. Sorry.

  • Mike Snyder

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 10:54 am

    First, I guess it is important to note it does not take 15,000 people to “fly” the space shuttle. At times, there may be around that number who were associated with it in one way or another but that was for an entire PROGRAM.

    Second, how many people do you believe would be associated with an EELV or vehicle derived from that? That includes: engineers (design and operations), technicians (operations and assembly), analysts, business operations, vendors (who have their own workforces), etc? Keep in mind that whatever the number is, that is also for just the rocket and just the boost phase of the mission. In other words, you cannot paint something as bad or wrong my number of employees alone.

    Finally, on another thread you only partially answered my question about why SDLV is not going to happen. You suggested it was because of the layoffs. The layoffs are due to a PROGRAM that is being phased out and do not, at this point, mean it is impossible to derive a vehicle from said program.

    That said, you ignored the rest of my question so I will ask again. What proof and valid data do you have that says SDLV discussions are just a smokescreen for Delta IV super heavy as you have claimed is the intent in the past?

  • Mike Snyder

    common sense wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I said it was important. Do not try to put words in my mouth. I asked why “it was the most important thing”. Further using your analogy, even if I was to fly on one tomorrow, it is important to keep capabilities of various designs in perspective and hence my statement. Thank you.

  • common sense

    @Mike Snyder wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    “I said it was important. Do not try to put words in my mouth. I asked why “it was the most important thing”. Further using your analogy, even if I was to fly on one tomorrow, it is important to keep capabilities of various designs in perspective and hence my statement. Thank you.”

    All right then. It is the MOST important because one day regular people will fly in space (if VG is successful). When the Shuttle is disbanded or when Orion is cancelled well then you know nobody gives a hoot. And nobody gives a hoot because the public knows very well that even if Orion goes to Mars they, the public, will never get a chance to board an Orion. So yes VG flights altogether are the MOST important news for HSF. Nothing else. I am sure you understand that when passenger flight became available an entire industry well took off. Nobody is questioning their existence today. We even bailed them out not so long ago. So VG has the potential to represent the coming to be of an entire new world and industry. And for that matter could as well change the way we travel on this Earth. So yes it is the MOST important news.

  • Mike Snyder

    @common sense

    Ummmm….ok. Pretty narrow vision if I do say so myself but that is just my opinion, as the above is yours, so thank you for sharing it.

  • MichaelC

    http://www.space.com/news/nasa-planetary-defense-fights-asteroids-101019.html

    It is interesting to compare what people like apollo astronauts and the atlas shrugged crowd here consider to be important.

    A suborbital tourist toy for the rich or a way to defend the earth from winning the extinction event lottery.

    The most important news? Sad.

    There are other reasons to go into space besides making a buck. In fact, it is my view that if making a buck is the only way we are going to migrate into the solar system, then whenever that extinction event chooses to occurs, we will not survive.

  • common sense

    @ Mike Snyder wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    “Ummmm….ok. Pretty narrow vision if I do say so myself but that is just my opinion, as the above is yours, so thank you for sharing it.”

    Narrow how if I may? What is in your opinion the “right” broad vision then? Because it seems to me that the usual “vision” for space has led to the failure of most HSF programs.

    Please enlighten me if you don’t mind.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Lori and I suppose some people leaving comments here seem to think that “the new direction” is set in stone. It isn’t. The super wave election that is going to occur in about a week is going to change the Congress, especially the House, in ways that cannot be imagined. There will be a whole new set of people determining space policy and few if any will like Obamaspace.

    By the way, the new revelations about parts of the Moon being wetter than the Sahara has gotten even the mainstream media (see last night’s ABC Evening News) saying the Obama made a boner by bypassing the Moon. The Congress is going to revisit that next year.

  • common sense

    @Mark R. Whittington wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    “The Congress is going to revisit that next year.”

    Oh I am sure it will and if you have it your way, like it seems, then there will be a great space BEO program with a 20% cut soon. This is going to be hilarious.

    Oh well…

  • Major Tom

    “First, I guess it is important to note it does not take 15,000 people to ‘fly’ the space shuttle.”

    No, that’s about right. United Space Alliance alone had a workforce in the 8-9,000 range before the cuts started. See:

    http://blog.al.com/space-news/2010/07/united_space_alliance_to_reduc.html

    Add in NASA civil servants and other contractors and you’ll approach, if not exceed, 15,000.

    “Second, how many people do you believe would be associated with an EELV or vehicle derived from that?”

    Less than half the Shuttle workforce. The workforce at United Launch Alliance, for example, doesn’t exceed 4,000.

    http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2010/04/05/daily13.html

    The ULA workforce supporting two EELV families is less the half the 8,100 USA workforce that supported the Space Shuttle.

    “What proof and valid data do you have that says SDLV discussions are just a smokescreen for Delta IV super heavy as you have claimed is the intent in the past?”

    This isn’t directed at me, and I won’t comment on suppossed political smokescreens. That said, the costs of the much bigger Shuttle workforce and infrastructure don’t allow it to compete well against the smaller EELV workforce and infrastructure for a future HLV. This is exacerbated by the fact that NASA carries all Shuttle workforce and infrastructure costs while EELV workforce and infrastructure costs are shared with military and commercial customers. Given the austere federal budget environment going forward, it’s hard to see a SDHLV winning out over an EELV-derived HLV that’s starting out with a factor of two-plus cost advantage. The competition gets even more ridiculous for SDHLV if SpaceX enters the HLV game. They’re operating and developing Falcon 9, Dragon, and Falcon 1 with less than 1,000 employees.

    spacex.com/press.php?page=20100607

    NASA’s human space flight workforce will be much better off and better utilized if they’re directed towards developing deep space capabilities that don’t exist anywhere else, rather than trying to compete with substantially more efficient military and commercial ETO operations. NASA (and government in general) excels at development firsts, not competing against fourth or fifth generation vehicles.

    My 2 cents… FWIW.

  • Vladislaw

    Mark R. Whittington wrote:

    “The super wave election that is going to occur in about a week is going to change the Congress, especially the House, in ways that cannot be imagined.”

    And if the house passes a new bill and manages to get it through the senate and the President vetos it… what then? There will not be a 2/3rds majority in the senate to override it.

  • Mike Snyder

    @common sense

    You suggested Virgin Galactic is the only oppurtunity. That nothing else matters and that VG will, and only VG, will unite the world in piece and harmonry. I disagree. That’s all.

  • common sense

    @ Mike Snyder wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    “You suggested Virgin Galactic is the only oppurtunity. That nothing else matters and that VG will, and only VG, will unite the world in piece and harmonry. I disagree. That’s all.”

    Okay fine, I will admit I focused on VG and that others (e.g. BO) are in the game for suborbital flights but most visible and active still is VG. And as far as news go, the most important news was that of VG’s. Had we had BO or someone else in that league make some news then I might have considered. There was none hence my point.

    But you did not say you just disagreed, you said “narrow” vision. So again my question to you, what is the right broad vision? What is most important according to you?

  • Major Tom

    “The super wave election that is going to occur in about a week is going to change the Congress, especially the House… Congress is going to revisit that next year.”

    The 2010 NASA Authorization Act sets budget limits and policy for three years. It’s highly unlikely to be revisited before then.

    Even if it is, the congressional leadership-in-waiting wants to cut the part of the federal budget that NASA resides in by more than 20%. To the extent that NASA’s programs are revisited, it will be in the context of budget cuts and reduced scope, not new policy goals.

    “By the way, the new revelations about parts of the Moon being wetter than the Sahara…”

    By a couple percent. Whoop-dee-doo. For every unit of useful water, you still have to process about 20 units of regolith.

    Until we know whether there are localized concentrations of water that can be obtained without developing, transporting, erecting, and operating the equivalent of a strip-mining operation on the Moon, lunar ISRU (at least water processing) makes no economic sense.

    “has gotten even the mainstream media (see last night’s ABC Evening News) saying the Obama made a boner by bypassing the Moon.”

    There was no statement about an Obama “boner” on last night’s ABC news.

    [rolls eyes]

    And, in fact, NASA’s FY11 budget proposal included rover missions to determine whether there are localized sources of water on the Moon and demonstrate their utility.

    Don’t make stuff up.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    And if the house passes a new bill and manages to get it through the senate and the President vetos it… what then? There will not be a 2/3rds majority in the senate to override it.

    Actually Whittington’s original proposition is based on a false assumption, which is that Republicans want to “return to the Moon”. They don’t, and they happily voted along with Democrats to cancel Constellation.

    The next Congress is not likely to INCREASE funding for NASA, but is more likely to DECREASE funding, which removes any serious human lunar missions from reality, as well as any government-run HLV’s. Tighter budgets means smaller projects & missions, which is not necessarily a bad thing if we want NASA to go back to it’s roots.

  • Mike Snyder

    Major Tom wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I realize all are not welcome here and one must subscribe to a certain mentality but perhaps you should re-read my statement.

    I know the what the shuttle had at one time. I also said it does not take that many to “fly” the vehicle. Those numbers represented what was assigned to an overall PROGRAM that dealt with more than just the actual “flying” of the vehicle.

    You provided some numbers for ULA. Are they right? Don’t know. However, what I stated is whatever number they have is just for the launch vehicle(s). In addition, that does not count vendors that would supply certain components to ULA. My point being trying to paint one vehicle and group of people as “bad” because of employment without applying the necessary context can backfire.

    For the rest, I will say you have missed some finer points. That’s fine you will believe what you believe and likely want to only hear what you want to hear. Thank you for your time.

  • common sense

    @Mike Snyder wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    “I realize all are not welcome here and one must subscribe to a certain mentality”

    This is absolutely not true unless you mean argument supported by facts is a “certain mentality”. I can tell you that a lot of us posters here argue pretty hard about subjects for which we sometime agree and those we sometime disagree. But most of all the people who support their arguments with facts are very well accepted. The others well… Life is cruel.

  • Mike Snyder

    @common sense

    “But you did not say you just disagreed, you said “narrow” vision. So again my question to you, what is the right broad vision? What is most important according to you?”

    I believe I have more than adequately stated why I said what I said.

    For the rest of your question, I believe we are on the right track with the NASA Authorization Act, more or less. The rest of the details are TBD and time will tell if I agree with them or not.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I realize all are not welcome here and one must subscribe to a certain mentality…

    I come here to discuss, debate and learn, and from my perspective, as long as someone is satisfying one of those conditions then I’m happy to read what they write. Your comments fit somewhere into that, although sometimes it seems like you and Oler should go find a room to yourselves… ;-)

    However, what I stated is whatever number they have is just for the launch vehicle(s). In addition, that does not count vendors that would supply certain components to ULA.

    To a certain degree it is not valid to count component vendors, otherwise you could stretch your “touch” count into the tens of thousands for just about any complex vehicle or assembly.

    The real point is really simplicity, where a system design has removed complexity to reduce costs or schedule. For instance, new aircraft are using electric actuators instead of hydraulic ones to simplify maintenance, which lowers the number of touch hours needed for each flight hour. The same factors allowed turbojets to replace piston engines for airliners, even though they were less fuel efficient.

    For launchers, SpaceX tore a book out of the Soyuz page and uses a modern version of their roll & erect launchpad system, which removed the need for a vertical assembly building and a crawler-transporter.

    Really though, the Shuttle should now be looked at for lessons learned, since it’s end is near, and amongst those lessons is that NASA is not the best organization for running a transportation system. They do OK, but I think we lost a lot of opportunities to do more in space during the past two decades…

  • Major Tom

    “I know the what the shuttle had at one time. I also said it does not take that many to ‘fly’ the vehicle.”

    Yes, if you want to return the Space Shuttle to its former flight rate and continue flying it over many years, it requires that large a workforce. The only reason it doesn’t take as large a workforce today is because the program is ramping down and fewer and fewer Shuttle missions and less and less Shuttle hardware is in the queue.

    “Those numbers represented what was assigned to an overall PROGRAM that dealt with more than just the actual ‘flying’ of the vehicle.”

    I quoted workforce figures from United Space Alliance (USA), a joint venture of Lockheed/Boeing created specifically to fly the Space Shuttle. What else does USA do besides fly the Space Shuttle?

    “You provided some numbers for ULA. Are they right?”

    Yes. If you don’t believe the 4,000 figure that ULA provided to the Denver Post, then you can take the 3,900 figure that ULA provided to the Commercial Spaceflight Federation:

    commercialspaceflight.org/?p=1270

    “That’s fine you will believe what you believe and likely want to only hear what you want to hear.”

    No, I read what I read. And from what I’ve read, the major contractor for the Shuttle has a workforce that is more than double that of the major contractor for the two EELV families and more than eight times that of the Falcon/Dragon contractor. Facts in black-and-white are facts in black-and-white. Belief and hearing have nothing to do with it.

    “I realize all are not welcome here and one must subscribe to a certain mentality…”

    You don’t have to “subscribe” to anything. But you shouldn’t accuse others of believing and hearing only what they want to believe and hear when they’ve provided hard figures backed by references and you’ve provided no contrary evidence.

    Look in the mirror before you throw stones through that glass house.

    FWIW…

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler “Second “the gap” while a Griffin thing; is really a good thing. The gap allows other groups in the US to start to define human spaceflight; its needs and how it is done. Soon Virgin will be routinly flying people who get the title “astronaut”, SpaceX will be flying people capable vehicles…and Boeing in particular will start seeing how the new “order” is going and will find themselves how cheaply things can be built and flown.”

    This is just stupid. Private enterprise will NEVER lead the way in human spaceflight activities. The profit motive which fuels capitalism is never going to power the expansion of humans out into the cosmos. History has demonstrated this. It has always been a follow along, cashing in where it could and those who perpetuate the myth that it will are mere parasites, desperately seeking to feed off any subsidies suckered from government seed funding through perpetuating the myth that some kind of cosmic Reaganomics is going to move mankind out into space.

  • Mike Snyder

    @ Major Tom,

    You didn’t provide any hard evidence of anything. You assume an EELV HLV will be cheaper. You do not know that. If you always state facts, give me the link that has been vetted by ULA that shows the launch vehicle development costs, what NASA’s share will be of that development cost, and then the recurring operations costs for there on out and what NASA’s share will be. Show me where that has been partnered with all necessary parties and is absolute and then you can say you state only facts. Until then it is your opinion. That’s fine but lets not over-inflate statements either.

    Your comments also thus far comparing, ULA, SpaceX, etc to Shuttle is absolutely apples and oranges. The vehicles, their capabilities, their design and operations and the missions they support are completely different. It is not “black-and-white” to compare them in such ways.

    As I said, I know what USA had for employement. I also will say it does not take that to “fly” the vehicle and the number of people who were employed supported various aspects of the entire PROGRAM, not just flying the vehicle. It also would not likely take that large of a workforce to continue to fly the vehicle, so you know.

    As for ULA, relax for goodness sake. I didn’t say I didn’t belive you, I said I didn’t know. I figured it was about right so I moved on from there. You totally missed the point I was trying to make.

    Also, while you did not say this, it is completely fair and accurate to count vendors in the employment number. The reason is because these are expendible vehicles and everything must be created new every time. Therefore, the costs of that support, the logistics chain, are the responsibility of ULA to manage and pay for.

  • red

    “One area of compromise, of course, is in commercial crew development, where the authorization bill includes about $2 billion less from 2011 through 2013 than in the president’s proposal. “The healthy $1.3 billion for commercial transportation activities over the three-year period is a lot more than we’ve spent in the past,” she said. “This is a real start.””

    It will be interesting to see if this turns out to be enough to allow commercial crew to work. It sure is a lot less than Augustine thought would be needed, and the space community isn’t known for underestimating how much things will cost.

    For that matter, it will be interesting to see how much can be accomplished in the other areas like robotic precursors and exploration technology demonstrations with budgets that are drastically smaller than originally intended. For example, $100M per year for robotic precursors seems a bit small compared to the original FY2011 plans. Can they accomplish what needs to be done for actual progress with the amounts they’re getting (assuming later budget activity falls along similar lines)? What sort of robotic precursor and technology demonstration missions will they be able to afford in a reasonable timeframe?

    Maybe, if they don’t want the HSF program to be merely a jobs program, they’ll have to draw on other budget elements:

    - ensure the planetary science program sends enough missions to the potential HSF destinations for piggy-backing robotic precursor instruments to scout those targets

    - use the MPCV as a platform for technology demonstrations, and maybe dip into its budget to accomplish this

    - convince the JSC Congressional supporters to fund some of the exploration technology demonstration work as part of ISS (i.e. AR&D vehicle to support ISS, inflatable habitat demo to add capability to ISS, ECLSS demos as part of ISS work) – of course either involving JSC workers or helping to make sure existing JSC ISS workers stay employed by helping keep ISS going

    These are similar questions to what we’ve heard a lot on the SLS and MPCV side – i.e. many believe that there isn’t enough funding to accomplish the SLS and MPCV goals within the SDHLV and Orion-derived constraints, and even if there were, we wouldn’t be able to actually do anything with the SLS and MPCV because there would be no additional funding for SLS payloads or any MPCV capabilities beyond sight-seeing up-and-down trips. However, I’ve seen a lot of that sort of discussion on the SLS and MPCV side, but little on the precursor/technology/commercial side. It seems to me, though, that NASA could be being set up to fail in exactly the way Augustine warned against in all of these areas.

  • common sense

    @ red wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    “It seems to me, though, that NASA could be being set up to fail in exactly the way Augustine warned against in all of these areas.”

    Exactly. I would even say in *all* areas.

  • Vladislaw

    Mike Snyder wrote:

    “My point being trying to paint one vehicle and group of people as “bad” because of employment without applying the necessary context can backfire.”

    Mike, if you are going to try and argue that NASA works on streamlining the workforce and trying to utilize the least amount of employees you will have a hard time.

    The question is about program bloat and NASA was/is suffering for it. They designed a system to try and utilize the maximum amount of personal to save jobs from Apollo. By carrying that extra weight they will never be even remotely competitive to commercial. You do not have to compare various fruits to see this.

    This was a very serious concern to President Bush because it was spelled out in the Vision for Space Exploration:

    “In the days of the Apollo program, human exploration systems employed expendable, single-use vehicles requiring large ground crews and careful monitoring. For future, sustainable exploration programs, NASA requires cost-effective vehicles that may be reused, have systems that could be applied to more than one destination, and are highly reliable and need only small ground crews. NASA plans to invest in a number of new approaches to exploration, such as robotic networks, modular systems, pre-positioned propellants”

    More than anything the shuttle was canceled to try and get out from under the shuttle legacy of program bloat and to many hands on deck.

    President Bush clearly laid out what direction he wanted NASA moving in, space based, reusable space propulsion, and fuel depots with SMALL ground crews.

    NASA doesn’t need to be in the launch business anymore than they have to be in the airline, train, bus or shipping transportation systems business. They rely on commercial for everything else and it is just that time where they have to realize the time has come to change over.

    As a Senior NASA personal wrote on this blog a while back, we can’t afford the 200 million a month labor bill anymore whether NASA flys anything or not.

  • Major Tom

    “You didn’t provide any hard evidence of anything.”

    Yes, I did. You asked “how many people do you believe would be associated with an EELV” and I provided two hard figures. I also provided hard figures for Shuttle and Falcon employment.

    “You assume an EELV HLV will be cheaper.”

    I didn’t assume anything. Given the fact that the Shuttle workforce is more than twice as large as the EELV workforce and given that the costs of the smaller EELV workforce are spread across multiple customers while NASA has to foot the entire bill for the Shuttle workforce, it stands to reason that a Shuttle-derived HLV is going to be substantially more expensive for NASA than an EELV-derived HLV. That’s not an assumption; that’s common sense logic. The cost of building and operating anything is always driven by the cost of the workforce needed to build and operate that thing.

    “You do not know that. If you always state facts, give me the link that has been vetted by ULA that shows the launch vehicle development costs, what NASA’s share will be of that development cost, and then the recurring operations costs for there on out and what NASA’s share will be.”

    Fine, if you don’t want to draw a common sense conclusion from obvious workforce figures, then let’s rely on the expert findings of the Augustine Committee. In their report, they rated Option 5B: EELV Derived Flexible Path as less costly than Option 5C: Shuttle Derived Flexible Path.

    nasa.gov/pdf/396093main_HSF_Cmte_FinalReport.pdf

    Specifically, they wrote that:

    “The EELV-heritage Super Heavy Option 5B has… the lowest (i.e. best) Life-Cycle Costs, due to the commercial nature of the operation.”

    And that:

    “The more directly Shuttle-derived heavy launcher in Option 5C… does poorly in Life-Cycle Costs.”

    Again, it’s right there in black-and-white.

    “Your comments also thus far comparing, ULA, SpaceX, etc to Shuttle is absolutely apples and oranges. The vehicles, their capabilities, their design and operations and the missions they support are completely different.”

    It’s not “apples and oranges”. These are all launch vehicles that put roughly the same mass into LEO. Some simply do it more efficiently than others, precisely because they have very different vehicle designs, capabilities, and operations that require very different workforce sizes.

    This isn’t golf. Vehicles don’t get a handicap on costs because they are poorly designed, underpowered, and/or unnecessarily complex necessitating large and expensive production and operations teams.

    “It also would not likely take that large of a workforce to continue to fly the vehicle, so you know.”

    Based on what evidence? Almost 30 years of Shuttle operations show otherwise.

    “As for ULA, relax for goodness sake. I didn’t say I didn’t belive you”

    Yes, you did. In reference to the ULA workforce figure, you wrote “Are they right?” So I provided a second source.

    I don’t care whether you “belive [sic]” me. But questioning hard figures backed by references in the absence of any contrary evidence simply because they don’t support your thesis is a waste of your time and mine.

    “You totally missed the point I was trying to make.”

    Which was?

    “… it is completely fair and accurate to count vendors in the employment number.”

    Sure, agreed.

    “The reason is because these are expendible vehicles and everything must be created new every time.”

    Sure, but you’re kidding yourself if you think the Shuttle is reusable or that whatever reusability it has grants the vehicle any cost advantage over ELVs. The Shuttle’s ETs are always a new production. The Shuttle’s SRBs have to be recovered from the ocean, cleaned, inspected, refurbished and refueled, inspected again, stacked, and then inspected a third time. The Shuttle’s SSMEs are pulled out, taken apart, inspected, put back together, inspected, test-fired, inspected again, then put back on the orbiter, then inspected a fourth time. The Shuttle’s TPS is a labor-intensive nightmare. Not to mention all the aging wiring and components on the Shuttle orbiters that need extensive inspections after every flight. Comparing the work needed to turn around a Shuttle to the work needed to produce an Atlas V or Delta IV is like comparing the work needed to solve a Rubik’s Cube to the work needed to make a cube out of Tinkertoys.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “It seems to me, though, that NASA could be being set up to fail in exactly the way Augustine warned against in all of these areas.”

    Agreed. But the commercial crew, tech demos, and robotic precursors have a few things going for them that MPCV and SLS don’t:

    1) Cost-Sharing. Some CCDev projects are already bringing private dollars to the table that exceed NASA’s contribution. Like COTS, future CCDev awards will also be contingent on private cost-sharing and certain tech demos could, too. Other tech demos and certain robotic precursors may attract other federal or international partners. These programs can stretch the taxpayer’s dollar in ways that the MPCV and SLS can’t.

    2) Fewer Constraints. If NASA doesn’t exercise the flexibilities provided in the authorization bill, then the costs of MPCV and SLS will be driven by existing Constellation contracts, existing Constellation/Shuttle workforce/infrastructure, and existing Constellation hardware. In the case of SLS, performance targets are also fixed. Commercial crew, tech demos, and robotic precursors are under no such constraints — so far, they have full programmatic flexilibility to make intelligent cost trades.

    3) Technology Trends: Moore’s Law is easier to work than the rocket equation, and in the case of robotic precursors and certain tech demos, substantial accomplishments can be made with relatively small, low cost robotic missions if 80% performance solutions and reasonable mission risks are allowed, instead of the usual gold-plated human space flight or SMD robotic missions.

    All these programs have smaller budgets than what they planned for, but based on the above, I’d argue that commercial crew, tech demos, and robotic precursors have a greater chance of executing successful missions (or even just producing operational hardware) 5-6 years from now than MPCV and SLS. If NASA follows all or most of the MPCV and SLS druthers in the authorization act, then MPCV and SLS don’t close — they can’t be done for that money in that timeframe.

    My 2 cents… FWIW…

  • Dennis Berube

    In the end, I dont think NASA will fail.

  • Mike Snyder

    Major Tom,

    First ULA, SpaceX and Shuttle do NOT have the same capabilities and clearly the shuttle is more than a launch vehicle. You essentially agreed to that in one way and then ignored it others. It is a simple fact, since they are not the same, that you CANNOT compare them in the same exact way.

    With respect to the workforce numbers in which you are attempting to use, that, again, is for a PROGRAM. A PROGRAM that also has an orbiter. For a SDLV it will be a rocket only and at a PROJECT level office, the same level that a EELV-based HLV would be. A rocket-only will not require the same amount of people or budget that a PROGRAM requires.

    As for the “common sense” remark, were are all the assumptions and data that conclusion was based on in there? Did they account for how much NASA-money is required to develop a entirely new family of launch vehicles? Does it make any recommendations on how to deal with whatever this NASA-subsidy for ops ends up being, coupled with the DOD subsidy already being paid, undermines the rest of commercial space and the price market you so much want to take advantage of? So again point to me the dollar amounts, that have been agreed to by all parties, and we can go from there.

    The shuttle processing remarks, while sensationalized on your part, do not apply at all to the discussion. For a SDLV, as I said, the orbiter is gone. The rest of your comment is noise and I won’t get into a petty back-and-forth with you.

  • Ferris Valyn

    In the end, I dont think NASA will fail.

    Why? They haven’t succeeded in delivering a viable shuttle replacement for the past 20 years.

    And yes, part of that problem is due to the fact they haven’t had stable funding. OTOH, part of the problem is NASA has never come to terms with the fact that it only has a $9 Billion budget to spend on HSF.

    It really comes down to having the budget to do the mission – if you don’t have it, you won’t do it

  • common sense

    Sigh… What’s the deal with Shuttle again? People? Shuttle is ending and that is that. On with the new. And it ain’t gonna be Orion. Just watch.

    And yes if NASA is mandated to go HEFT+HLV then NASA will fail. Not because of NASA but because of pork, Congress pork that is of course, not the animal.

  • DCSCA

    The most promising and realistic ‘private enterprised’ space venture is Branson’s effort. It’s the most ‘common sensed’ approach to space exploitation for this period of human history.

  • Major Tom

    “It is a simple fact, since they are not the same, that you CANNOT compare them in the same exact way.”

    Yes I can. All I care about is payload mass in LEO and what it costs the taxpayer. Getting that done on some of these vehicles costs more than getting it done on others.

    Period.

    “For a SDLV it will be a rocket only and at a PROJECT level office, the same level that a EELV-based HLV would be.”

    There is only one layer of management difference — we’re talking tens of individuals — between a program and a project. Removing a top program management layer consisting of, say, 50 people from an 8,100-plus person workforce is not going to change the fact that the Shuttle stack’s design and infrastructure requires a USA workforce that is more than twice the size of the 3,900-person ULA workforce (and more than eight times that of the 900-person Falcon workforce).

    “As for the ‘common sense’ remark, were are all the assumptions and data that conclusion was based on in there?”

    When I used the term “common sense”, I was referring to my analysis of the relative workforce numbers between the different vehicles, not the Augustine Committee’s final report, which is based on a lot more than workforce figures and common sense logic.

    If by “in there”, you mean that you don’t like the conclusion of the Augustine Committee’s final report that an EELV-derived exploration architecture is less costly than a Shuttle-derived exploration architecture, then you need to read the report to understand the “assumptions and data” behind that “conclusion”.

    I’m not going to reiterate the evidence, logic, and findings of a 157-page report that’s freely available to download on the internet and all the documents and testimony that went into that report on a blog. You either accept the conclusion of the experts, or you do the homework necessary to test that conclusion. But don’t whine to me when you havn’t done your homework. I’m not going to do it for you.

    “Did they account for how much NASA-money is required to develop a entirely new family of launch vehicles?”

    No one is talking about an “entirely new family of launch vehicles”. We’re talking about HLVs derived from existing launch vehicles, whether Shuttle or EELV.

    “Does it make any recommendations on how to deal with whatever this NASA-subsidy for ops ends up being”

    What “NASA-subsidy [sic]“? If NASA decides they want ULA to develop and operate an EELV-derived HLV to support NASA exploration missions, then NASA has to pay for it. That’s paying for a product and a service; it’s not a subsidy.

    Again, one of the reasons an EELV-derived HLV will cost NASA less than a Shuttle-derived HLV is because some of the workforce that would support the development and operation of that HLV also works EELVs for other military and commercial customers, while the Shuttle workforce is entirely paid for by NASA. But that doesn’t mean that any subsidization is going on. It just means that the same workforce can charge multiple customers and is getting more efficiently utilized.

    “The shuttle processing remarks, while sensationalized on your part, do not apply at all to the discussion. For a SDLV, as I said, the orbiter is gone.”

    So what? The ET for a side-mount or an ET-derived core for an in-line will still always be a new production. The SRBs, whether four- or five-segment, will still have to be recovered from the ocean, cleaned, inspected, refurbished and refueled, inspected again, stacked, and then inspected a third time. And on top of that, we’re now throwing away SSMEs that are incredibly expensive to produce compared to other rocket motors, or bearing the design, integration, test, and evalution costs of putting a new motor at the bottom of the Shuttle stack. All the orbiter takes off the table from my earlier list is TPS and aging wiring.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    Well, if accurate, this is interesting news from SpacePort America runway dedication:

    “Wow. Virgin Galactic intends to have a commercial crew proposal for CCDev 2! That’s what Branson just announced! They will announce more on this in the next 2 or 3 months.”

    forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=21895.30

    FWIW…

  • common sense

    @ Major Tom wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    This is incredible news! And the second (chronologically) MOST important (wink wink) news of today…

    Ah!

  • DCSCA

    Major Tom wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 7:07 pm Branson discussed this on MSNBC in a live interview this afternoon. Virgin’s business model is by far the smartest approach in this era.

  • Mike Snyder

    Tom,

    Mass to orbit is but one discriminator. Fact is, rockets are divided into different classes for a reason. One thing you are trying to compare against is not even a “rocket”. When one makes statements like this, for example “period”, it shows how rigid they are and unwilling to learn. In this case, you are simply wrong for trying to do what you are attempting to do.

    Next, if you truly believe the difference between “program” costs and “project” costs are the salaries and people in a particular office, then there is little reason to continue this conversation.

    With respect to the Augustine Report, I simply asked if the answers to my questions were in there. Questions that need answers prior to committing on a path of evolving an EELV. The reason they are needed is because it must be absolutely certain that the subsidies that will be given ULA from various government agencies do not put the “thumb on the scale” and hurt the market that does exist for non-HLV flights.

    What I mean by “subsidy” is there is much more to this than you are giving credit. I trust you are competent enough to that homework for yourself. If you believe that an HLV can be derived from the existing EELV’s of today, without making a new family and the expense that entails, you need to do further research. The simple fact is an HLV in the SDLV-class cannot be produced today without first creating a new family of vehicles to give that modularity. So again, show me who pays for that, address the questions I have raised above, tell me how much NASA pays once in operational mode, etc. Show me, beyond doubt, it will be less than a SDLV (which will be substantially less than the STS program).

    With respect to SDLV and processing, “so what” is what I am personally growing to expect from you. The argument you make against a SDLV with respect to “design, integration, test and evaluation” also applies to your EELV-based HLV.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    If you believe that an HLV can be derived from the existing EELV’s of today, without making a new family and the expense that entails, you need to do further research. The simple fact is an HLV in the SDLV-class cannot be produced today without first creating a new family of vehicles to give that modularity.

    Right now we have a Congress that wants NASA to build an HLV, ostensibly for future needs. Congress also “desires” the use of existing Shuttle or Constellation designs or hardware to be used, but the eventual HLV would essentially be a new design.

    I think it’s safe to say that the HLV would not be an evolution of either the Shuttle or Ares I, and though some Shuttle or Constellation workers would be used, they are doing so as full-time HLV workers, not also in support of the older vehicles.

    If ULA or SpaceX were to build their proposed HLV’s, those are purported to be evolutions of existing launchers. Some of the people working on the new programs would be dedicated only to those programs, but some would likely be in shared departments.

    The rocket body manufacturing group would now have one more series of part numbers that they would have to build, and the composite manufacturing group would add new interstage and payload fairings to their list of products to produce. The vast majority of parts needed would be in addition to what they are already building for their existing launchers, although new locations might have to be built to handle oversized parts. The operations side of the house would likely add personnel, but they would take on the added family of launchers just like they did for previous product additions.

    So although there is some gray in these types of comparisons, the SD-HLV is going to be another unique product that NASA has to support, whereas commercial HLV’s would be more like additions to existing product catalogs.

    My $0.02

  • Vladislaw

    I just do not see where you are getting an entirely new family?

    Super Heavy EEVLs As Replacement Of ARES 1 And ARES 5

    “The Augustine Commission has outlined the most effective way from a long perspective point of view – an EELV- heritage Super-Heavy launcher based on 3-module Atlas 5 phase 2 Heavy. Each module of the first stage would consist from two RD180 engines and tank of 5 m in diameter.

    In conjunction with common LOX/LH2 upper stage – probably 4x RL 10 engine – the launcher is likely to have LEO payload in range of 75 mt. Such launcher is capable to lift Altair and Orion /72 mt/ to LEO and still has margin of 3 mt. For Moon lending, it is necessary to use two additional 75 mt launchers to place EDS on LEO, preferably two-staged EDS.”
    http://www.space-travel.com/reports/Super_Heavy_EEVLs_As_Replacement_Of_ARES_1_And_ARES_5_999.html

    All-Liquid: A Super Heavy Lift Alternative?

    “The Committee described an EELV Super Heavy that could lift 75 tonnes to LEO. The rocket described in the Augustine Report is “Atlas 5 Phase 2 Heavy”. It would consist of three 5-meter diameter units arranged in a core plus strap-on configuration. Each unit would be powered by a pair of Russian RD-180 LOX/kerosene engines. Tanks for this rocket would be formed using Delta 4 tooling. The upper stage would be powered by four RL10 engines. A smaller rocket could be created by using just one of the 5-meter units as a first stage.

    An attractive feature of Atlas 5 Phase 2 is that it would be an “all-liquid” rocket. All-liquid rockets offer the potential of lower lift-cycle costs by eliminating an entire contractor chain for solid rocket motors, and by eliminating the costly and hazardous launch processing steps needed for solids. Offsetting these advantages would be the need to launch twice as many Atlas 5 Phase 2 rockets for a given mission.”
    http://www.spacelaunchreport.com/liquidhllv.html

  • Matt Wiser

    Until reliable SSTO or equivalent technology becomes available that reduces the need for rockets (and that’s still a long ways off), transporting people into space will never be “routine.” It’s been dangerous ever since the start in ’61, and as long as people climb into a capsule on top of a rocket, it will always be so. The risk can be reduced through a vigilant safety program (which NASA will be in charge of for these commercial flights wth NASA crews), but not eliminated completely. As long as the lease option is being taken, with NASA being responsible for safety, mission control, and recovery, things should be well in hand.

    There are probably some folks who still view Garver as “a stooge of the commercial spaceflight industry.” The original FY 11 budget request would have validated those viewpoints. At least she was able to eat humble pie and admit that the compromise (read: Senate Bill) was the best way to move forward.

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    ‘ DCSCA wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 7:18 pm
    Major Tom wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 7:07 pm Branson discussed this on MSNBC in a live interview this afternoon. Virgin’s business model is by far the smartest approach in this era.’

    It’s one approach and seems to be working at this point. SpaceX has another approach which also is a goer at this point. Bigelow has yet another approach and that also seems to be a goer.
    All three are different and are addressing differing needs. But that is the nature of business. Opportunities are identified, evaluated, agreed, funded, developed and marketed to customers.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    “First, I guess it is important to note it does not take 15,000 people to “fly” the space shuttle…”

    well really of course it only takes one (1) person to “fly” the space shuttle…if “fly” is defined as “manipulating the controls of the vehicle”…

    but if one wants to do more with the system then have it be a gate guard and one actually wants to put it in operation you are going to need about 15000 people…that is how come it takes according to Shannon (and he is being “light” here) about 200 million a month to keep the program going.

    Three other points.

    First I have never said you were unwelcome here based on your viewpoints and while there are some people who tend not to work and play well with others, as long as people do, I really dont give a darn what they say…I can ignore the trolls better then most. If I chose to respond, then I am doing so in the give and take of debate.

    Second. your wrote “Why? I certainly is a great thing and it is certainly important but I also believe it is necessary otherwise to keep things in perspective.”

    It is in my view impossible to overstate the importance of the folks like SpaceX, Virgin, and it appears Boeing now who are trying to look at the notion of flying humans in space without the preconcieved notions that NASA HSF has gathered up in the last 30 years; and in the process has watched the cost to fly people in orbit skyrocket.

    The shuttle program should be able to get buy on something less then 5000 people per remaining orbiter. Or put another way when Columbia was lost, then the entire process should have been able to shed people. You have compared the orbiters to the Navy’s ships, but ONE reason the Navy has reduced its number of flattops…is to reduce the standing group that services them (there were some others I agree but this was one goal). As the Navy has drawn down to a smaller force…the number of people who take care of the force; has dropped.

    If HSF cannot be done on less people, far less in terms of teeth to tail; then it has a short life, because the unpleasant message from the Cx cancellation was that there is no human space program that the Congress is willing to pay for; if it cost as much as NASA HSF does now…for any reason.

    Virgin, SpaceX and now it seems Boeing (to name a few) seem to get it and are working hard to come up with a product that doesnt have all the people on the ground that the shuttle does.

    And finally my last point; this is one reason there wont be a SDV. YOu are technically correct literally anything is possible if one throws enough money at it…but that era (toss money at is) is gone and is going to get far more severe as time moves on.

    Once the Congressional cheerleaders lose the jobs that they were trying to protect, you will find that they also lose the enthusiasim for the programs that are gone. If they cannot save the jobs, it is almost impossible to bring them back (that is why the B-1 was done so cleverly).

    In the end once the last shuttle rolls wheels stop (and that will probably come sooner rather then later as the LON is getting very expensive) then the workforce will be gone, the orbiters and their infrastructure gone…and the cash it would take to bring any part of that back, will simply be a much higher political bar, then it was to save the thing in the first place.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “Mass to orbit is but one discriminator.”

    Reread my post. My discriminator isn’t “mass to orbit”. My discriminator is mass to orbit at what cost to the taxpayer.

    “Fact is, rockets are divided into different classes for a reason.”

    Existing EELVs and the current STS can put the same sized payloads into orbit today — they’re in the same class.

    Future HLVs, if they’re ever built and whatever they’re derived from, will all put payloads into orbit that are multiples of today’s largest payloads. That’s why they’re all classed as HLVs.

    Wer’re still comparing apples to apples — mass to orbit at what cost to the taxpayer within the same class of launch vehicle.

    “One thing you are trying to compare against is not even a ‘rocket’.”

    All the launch vehicles we’ve discussed use rocket engines. They’re all rockets.

    “When one makes statements like this, for example “period”, it shows how rigid they are and unwilling to learn.”

    You’ve offered no other figures of merit in several posts. You just keep whining about mine. There’s nothing to learn because you’re not offering anything.

    “In this case, you are simply wrong for trying to do what you are attempting to do.”

    This is circular gibberish. It’s wrong for me to try something that I’m attempting?

    Write coherently.

    “Next, if you truly believe the difference between ‘program’ costs and ‘project’ costs are the salaries and people in a particular office”

    The work is the same whether an LV is managed at the program level or at the project level. It’s still the same vehicle launching the same payloads to the same orbits. All you’ve done is reassign the accounting for a layer of management costs at the top of the workforce pyramid.

    “, then there is little reason to continue this conversation.”

    Then why are you bothering to post? Once again, you’re whining while contributing no new evidence or even information to support or explain your position.

    “With respect to the Augustine Report, I simply asked if the answers to my questions were in there.”

    Why do you even need to ask? Why havn’t you read the report by now? It’s been out for over a year.

    “The reason they are needed is because it must be absolutely certain that the subsidies that will be given ULA from various government agencies”

    What are you talking about? There cannot be multiple “subsidies” to ULA “from various government agencies” because no other government agency wants to build or use an HLV besides NASA.

    “do not put the ‘thumb on the scale’ and hurt the market that does exist for non-HLV flights.”

    This applies to any HLV provider. Regardless of whether ULA, SpaceX, or USA wins an HLV competiton, that company is going to have more revenue, a bigger slice of the launch market, and more competitive advantages than the companies that don’t win that competition. That’s not a “thumb on the scale”. That’s just competition and evolution of the fittest.

    If we want a healthy launch industry, then we need to allow for and encourage competition. Artificially cordoning off a segment of the market like heavy lift is creates perverse incentives and protects inefficient vehicles. That how you “hurt the market”.

    “If you believe that an HLV can be derived from the existing EELV’s of today, without making a new family and the expense that entails, you need to do further research.”

    No, I don’t. An Atlas V Phase 2 HLV, for example, can be developed today using existing EELV engines and tooling. It doesn’t require “a new family” of launch vehicles.

    “The simple fact is an HLV in the SDLV-class cannot be produced today without first creating a new family of vehicles to give that modularity.”

    An Atlas V Phase 2 HLV is a 70-ton vehicle, in the same payload range as Jupiter-130 (70 tons) or Side-Mount (72 tons).

    “So again, show me who pays for that,”

    NASA. They’re the only customer for heavy lift.

    “address the questions I have raised above”

    I have. Reread the answers in my earlier posts.

    “Show me, beyond doubt, it will be less than a SDLV”

    Nothing can be proven “beyond doubt”. Where is your proof that an SDHLV is the cheapest option “beyond doubt”?

    I have provided figures and references showing that the Shuttle workforce that is more than double the EELV workforce and more than eight times the size of the Falcon workforce. I have pointed out the fact that NASA must bear all the costs of the Shuttle workforce and infrastructure while the EELV and Falcon families spread their costs across several customers. I have quoted from a blue-ribbon panel of experts that reviewed mountains of data, analysis, and testimony across over a dozen meetings and found that an EELV-based exploration architecture is less costly than a Shuttle-derived exploration architecture.

    Based on the evidence above, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which of these vehicles is cheaper today and provides a more affordable cost basis for developing and operating an HLV going forward. (Hint: It ain’t Shuttle.)

    “(which will be substantially less than the STS program).”

    And your evidence for this is what? And you’ve proven it “beyond doubt” how?

    EELV and Falcon costs are already substantially less than the STS program. To make a low-cost HLV, it makes no sense start with the highest-cost design, workforce, and infrastructure like Shuttle. Start with a lower-cost design, workforce, and infrastructure, like EELV or Falcon.

    “The argument you make against a SDLV with respect to ‘design, integration, test and evaluation’ also applies to your EELV-based HLV.”

    No, it doesn’t. An Atlas V Phase 2, for example, uses existing engines that are already integrated with existng Atlas V vehicles. An SDHLV is either going to throw away very expensive SSMEs with every launch or require the design, integration, test and evaluation of a cheaper expendable engine that the Shuttle stack was never designed for.

    FWIW…

  • Major Tom

    “Branson discussed this on MSNBC in a live interview this afternoon.”

    YouTube or other link, anyone?

    “Virgin’s business model is by far the smartest approach in this era.”

    I’m hopeful that this is a resurrection of the t/Space vehicle, but I’m probably putting too much emphasis on Rutan’s t/Space involvement, which was only with the carrier aircraft.

    FWIW…

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ October 22nd, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Private enterprise will NEVER lead the way in human spaceflight activities….

    sure it will Private enterprise is already leading the way in cost reduction.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Matt Wiser

    Private enterprise will help in exploitation, when that comes. Not exploration. Big difference in the two. Exploration is NASA’s role. Exploitation belongs to private industry. Only if there’s a space-age counterpart to the Hudson’s Bay Company would there be privately funded and mounted exploration activities.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 1:35 am – You keep overlooking the history of it all. Private enterprise has just never led the way because the goal is to turn a profit. Stating that ‘private enterprise’ is leading the way in ‘cost reduction’ is the same as saying the government cuts costs by awarding contracts to the lowest bidder. Remember, private enterprise space ventures, to date, have flown nobody in space. Governments have. And private enterprised space ventures will never establish a permanent base in the moon in the forseeable future because profit margins just arent there, which is what private enterprise is all about. And bear in mind one of the key components of cost cutting is reducing margins to the minimum which can increase risk. A lesson learned repeatedly in shuttle operations. Operating a for profit space program is not like operating a for profit grocery store. But Branson appears to be on the right track for a methodical approach to finally operating a for profit ‘private enterprised’ space exploitation venture, albeit suborbital. But the way he’s approaching it seems viable and orbital flights with a Virgin space hotel appear probable within a decade or two. But nothing like a major space exploration effort to establish a foothold on the moon or Mars.

  • DCSCA

    @Major Tom wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Branson appeared on MSNBC’s Dylan Radigan Show on Friday, 10/22. Taped it but you might check the Radigan show site on MSNBC to see if it’s uploaded there. He was on, live, from the finished runway for about 5 to 7 minutes. He really seems to be on the right track.

  • DCSCA

    BeancounterFromDownunder wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 12:32 am Perhaps, but Branson isn’t making grandiose claims like you hear from the SpaceX boosters and Branson’s immediate goals seem pretty straight forward- suborbital jaunts for $200,000/seat then on to orbital flights in out years and eventually flights to a space hotel. No pun intended, but he seems quite grounded and realistic in his approach to this and has enough pre-booked seats to say he expects to ‘create’ 400 new astronauts in his first year of operational flightsm and he asserted on MSNBC that he and his family will be passengers as well.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Regarding Branson and Commercial Crew – there was no discussion about it on MSNBC (at least not the clip I saw). However, I have seen multiple reports about it, and I assume it was mentioned in his opening speech, from what people have described.

    Mr. Wiser

    Until reliable SSTO or equivalent technology becomes available that reduces the need for rockets (and that’s still a long ways off)

    Ok, 2 points

    1. Why? What is your evidence that it MUST be a long ways off?
    2. Even if that is the case, why should we spend a lot of money/effort/time on something like a BEO human exploration program?

  • Byeman

    “(which NASA will be in charge of for these commercial flights wth NASA crews)”

    Wrong, NASA will not be in charge. Comm crew will follow the launch service conops

  • Mike Snyder

    Major Tom,

    The orbiter is payload that carries a payload. EELV’s cannot put that much mass in orbit today.

    A program has different costs than a project. A program incurs all the costs to achieve a particular goal. A project only incurs the cost to make it work and achieve its goals. Since STS is PROGRAM the costs of it include Orbiter, SSME, ET, SRB, Logistics, Mission Ops, Crew Training, Mission Design, etc. A SDLV PROJECT would not have these same costs. Also the orbiter is the most expensive piece of the STS PROGRAM and what we are discussing does not involve the orbiter. Therefore logically a SDLV, without the orbiter, which rolls up into a particular PROGRAM will not cost what the current STS PROGRAM costs.

    You have correctly stated NASA is the only customer for an HLV. Therefore NASA will have to subsidize whatever company produces the vehicle in order to ensure that capability is maintained. Currently the DOD does this with ULA to ensure it always has a minimum capability, regardless of market. NASA will have to take this approach as well, or pay larger than otherwise “per unit” costs that have these subsidies factored in.

    My point has been in order to achieve the “Phase 2″ rockets, a new family is developed first. While I never said it would be technically difficult that brings about certification of that entire family, including the modular HLV, because the current Atlas family no longer exists. Who pays for that?

    If ULA gets a “subsidy” from DOD now and will recieve some sort of “subsidy” from NASA – all to ensure some minimal capability is maintained – then it must be evaluated that this does not negatively impact other providers for the launch market that does exist beyond the government. This is on top of making sure that NASA and DOD requirements are not in conflict with one another.

    So again the rest of your post is essentially captured in the above and note I have not been rude to you during this “debate” unlike you who is continually ticking upward in that regard. Thank you and enjoy your weekend.

  • Mike Snyder

    Robert Oler,

    I just wanted to point out it was you who made the STS/CVN analogy. I simply placed it in context.

    The rest I suppose we can agree to disagree.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Since STS is PROGRAM the costs of it include Orbiter, SSME, ET, SRB, Logistics, Mission Ops, Crew Training, Mission Design, etc. A SDLV PROJECT would not have these same costs. Also the orbiter is the most expensive piece of the STS PROGRAM and what we are discussing does not involve the orbiter. Therefore logically a SDLV, without the orbiter, which rolls up into a particular PROGRAM will not cost what the current STS PROGRAM costs.

    that is a bad assumption.

    all an SDLV without an orbiter loses is the orbiter cost. There is no telling what cost it will pick up based on whatever vehicle flies on it…and the rest of the cost will stay if 1) the vehicle has the same components of a Shuttle stack (ie SSME’s SRB’s etc)…NASA HSF “flies” whatever vehicle replaces the orbiter in the same manner that it “flies” the orbiter…

    ie you have no idea what cost will be associated with the vehicle that replaces the orbiter.

    NASA HSF has shown a singular inability to cut cost or even to get cost under control.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 1:35 am – You keep overlooking the history of it all. Private enterprise has just never led the way because the goal is to turn a profit

    a few points

    First I really dont think that BEO Human exploration of space has now any value approaching the cost.

    And second I think that is true because in large part almost all the “things” that have to be built for BEO exploration by humans are more or less unique to that effort and have little or no value outside of that effort…

    and third I dont think that changes until there is a vibrant human exploitation of Earth orbit space.

    There really is no South Pole exploration without the DC-3 or C-130 all of which were created for non exploration efforts. Until that cycle works in human space flight, the cost for the unique vehicles are just to high and the benefits to little (dispite the cheerleading of people like Whittington)

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 9:47 am

    The orbiter is payload that carries a payload. EELV’s cannot put that much mass in orbit today.

    The Shuttle is a wonderful multi-purpose vehicle, but if all you want to do is put payload into orbit, then the orbiter is non-value added mass. As a launcher only, it costs anywhere from $750M-1.5B to put 50,000 of mass into LEO, where Delta IV Heavy can do it for less than $300M.

    My point has been in order to achieve the “Phase 2″ rockets, a new family is developed first.

    Your focus on “family” misses the real point.

    If NASA builds the SLS, then it is a custom built rocket, whose support infrastructure will be completely dedicated to making it launch – regardless how many times it launches.

    If ULA or SpaceX develop larger launchers, they have already shown how they will be outgrowths of their current families of launchers. They will be incremental add-ons to existing business, and they can utilize existing facilities, capabilities and labor across all their products, thus lowering the ultimate cost to get payloads to space.

    Who pays for that?

    What if NASA threw a party and no one RSVP’d? They might have to pay people to show up.

    If Congress/NASA have a big enough requirement for mass to space, then the launch companies might step up and risk paying for the development on their own – with a guaranteed government backlog of business, of course.

    If Congress/NASA don’t have enough guaranteed business, then the range of possibilities goes from Congress/NASA footing 100%, to some public-private venture where both put in a certain amount.

    But do you know why this is so undecided? Because there are no HLV payloads, so no one knows what the market need is.

    Solve that problem, and all the rest of this debate goes away…

  • Matt Wiser

    Ferris, that’s because all that’s known publicly (and that’s what I’m going by) has commercial crew/cargo going by rocket. No SSTO. Now, if there’s a “black” SSTO program being developed by the military and/or intelligence community for their purposes, we won’t know about it until it flies. And even then, a lot about the vehicle will remain classified. See the X-37 program for an example of a “black” space effort.

    BEO is simple: because it’s there. The Moon (heresy under Obama), Mars, and other destinations are there. New worlds to visit and explore. The old cliche “Going where no man has gone before” has appeal.

  • DCSCA

    @Ferris Valyn wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 2:30 am ABC’s ‘Nightline’ did a 10 minute segment on Virgin/Branson efforts earlier in the week, too. He hit on a lot of points but their approach appears realistic in expectations.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mr. Wiser,

    You said

    Until reliable SSTO or equivalent technology becomes available that reduces the need for rockets (and that’s still a long ways off)

    Now, I will agree, I think an SSTO itslef is a long ways off. But you included in equivalent tech, and there is a lot of equivalent tech that could reduce price to orbit, quite easily. So I want to know why you are writing off other equivalent tech.

    BEO is simple: because it’s there. The Moon (heresy under Obama), Mars, and other destinations are there. New worlds to visit and explore. The old cliche “Going where no man has gone before” has appeal.

    Ok, a few things.
    1. the moon was never heresy under Obama. You can keep claiming otherwise all you want, but the evidence doesn’t support you
    2. You know what else has appeal? Providing clean water for half the worlds population. You know what else has appeal? More funding for education. So when you have real world problems, why should we be spending money on space?
    3. To flip this on its head a bit – you are right, there are a lot of destinations out there. So why don’t we put them all on the table? I wanna start advocating for a manned mission to Alpha Centauri. Because we “have the tech” available now. So why not make that a major goal? I submit that if we are going for “grand vision & inspiration”, nothing but going outside of the solar system can compare. We don’t need to stop off at the moon or mars.

    So again, why do BEO right now, when its not cost effective? Or why not work on stuff that’ll make it cost effective? Why must we do it “right now”?

  • The Moon (heresy under Obama)

    The moon isn’t “heresy to Obama.” It is simply not first.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 12:21 am

    transporting people into space will never be “routine.” It’s been dangerous ever since the start in ’61, and as long as people climb into a capsule on top of a rocket, it will always be so.

    According to Merriam-Webster, “routine” means:

    a : a regular course of procedure
    b : habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure

    By that definition, spaceflight has always been routine. The crew and passengers train for what to do when things go wrong, and they have procedures galore to reference.

    Maybe what you’re thinking of is “dangerous”, like in the odds of surviving a mishap on the Shuttle when something goes wrong during ascent or decent.

    The way you mitigate “dangerous” is to design for it, which future capsule systems will be doing when they incorporate an LAS, or by over designing critical areas or systems.

    But lets keep in mind that life has it’s own constant dangers, and if you, Matt, want to avoid all danger, then go live in a bunker, but the vast number of people in the space industry think that they can mitigate the various dangers down to an acceptable risk. Even with the Shuttle’s known failings, they don’t have a shortage of astronauts that want to fly on them. It’s all about acceptable level’s of risk.

    Of course, maybe what you were really trying to say is the only NASA can make spaceflight “routine”. If so, you never proved your point.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    BEO is simple: because it’s there.

    And it always will be, so there is no rush.

    The Moon (heresy under Obama), Mars, and other destinations are there.

    If you are going to continue to misunderstand what the President said, and the context of the statement, then there is no hope for you Matt. He was talking about NEO’s as the next NASA goal because humans have never visited one, but humans have visited the Moon. Saying otherwise is a canard.

    The old cliche “Going where no man has gone before” has appeal.

    Unfortunately the more relevant quote from Star Trek would be “he’s dead, Jim”, because that’s what Congress did to the Moon program. It’s not good enough to go “because it’s there”, there has to be an affordable reason to go, and so far sending humans back to the Moon doesn’t have one yet (i.e. it’s not affordable).

    Robotic explorers are affordable, and with the Moon so close we can get a lot more done than on Mars, so I am glad that Constellation is no longer an impediment to that, but unfortunately Congress is still not enthusiastic enough about the Moon to provide very much lunar robotic funding. Some day, just not now…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    “BEO is simple: because it’s there. The Moon (heresy under Obama), Mars, and other destinations are there. New worlds to visit and explore. The old cliche “Going where no man has gone before” has appeal.”

    to who? to whom?

    there was not much of an uproar in the American public when the Cx program was tossed…the supporters of the program tried to bring out every little thing that they could including the Red Chinese menace and none of it worked.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Dennis Berube

    I suspect that if the HLV goes forward and an asteroid mission is given the go ahead, after that a Mars orbital mission would be given the go.

  • silence dogood

    What intrigues me is what is to come down the line…if VG and/or BO or Orbital (they’re not dead yet) succeed, the natural line of reasoning is to believe that NASA will be responsible for oversight.

    Yet, within the scope of the law, the FAA is the agency of authority.
    http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/faa_regulations/commercial_space/#regulations

  • red

    Major Tom: “2) Fewer Constraints. If NASA doesn’t exercise the flexibilities provided in the authorization bill, then the costs of MPCV and SLS will be driven by existing Constellation contracts, existing Constellation/Shuttle workforce/infrastructure, and existing Constellation hardware. In the case of SLS, performance targets are also fixed. Commercial crew, tech demos, and robotic precursors are under no such constraints — so far, they have full programmatic flexilibility to make intelligent cost trades.”

    Some in NASA might even be trying to exceed the SLS performance targets, possibly along the lines of the early HEFT recommendation:

    Constellation Is Dead, But Pieces Live On

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=space&id=news/awx/2010/10/22/awx_10_22_2010_p0-264465.xml&headline=Constellation%20Is%20Dead,%20But%20Pieces%20Live%20On

    “Now the agency is … Cooke says, using a government-built heavy-lift rocket with an initial capability of about 100 metric tons”

  • Libby

    Most Americans are oblivious to what is going on in the space program and what its about. Why would the American public make an uproar about Constellation being terminated if they never knew there was such a program or what its purpose was to start ?

    NASA could have the easiest and least expensive job of ‘marketing’ its program to the public if it would just develop pertinent short units for inclusion in the educational curriculum across the country. But its not done in any sort of an organized manner.

    As far as going back to the moon, or landing on Mars, given the rate at which NASA spends money, NASA could not afford to develop the boosters, the transit vehicles, the landers and the surface systems required in order to stage a moon landing in the next 20 years or a Mars mission for decades after that.

    Twenty-five years to the moon might have been achievable if NASA had received an increase of $5-6 billion a year. The American people and Congress have never seen the benefit of this level of expense for space, and I think they are especially wary of NASA given the number of incomplete and cancelled programs, the cost overruns, and the outrageous plans like building a $100 billion International Station in orbit over a period of a quarter century, all the time saying it was critical for space systems development and for science, just to be cancelled within a couple years of its completion.

    ISS was already developing the long duration systems and operational capabilities (not long enough) and the next logical step was to adapt these to a BEO mission. This, along with developing the required propulsion capability, can probably be done with NASA’s budget but only if NASA develops a new way of working; NASA has to actually take some of the systems and the people and adapt them and modify them for the new mission, instead of throwing them all away and trying to start over which is NASA ‘s more typical practice-which was exactly how Constellation was proceeding.

    As far as using Orion as the crew carrier for the long duration BEO missions, that is just not logical. The new spacecraft needs to be flexible enough to be able to leave from and return to earth orbit, and it needs to have a much larger living volume, with redundant living spaces and systems, with long duration multi-month systems, and it has to be a vehicle that flies indefinitely and is maintainable and not thrown away after each mission. Orion is none of the above. It is more wasted money unless we are simply repeating an Apollo style of mission. Apollo style will never be sustainable.

    Orion might be usable for earth to orbit and return transit, though it makes no sense to be returning astronauts from a space station or from long duration BEO missions, into the ocean on a ballistic trajectory after they’ve been away for months or years. Orion is mainly just redundant with Dragon.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dennis Berube wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    I suspect that if the HLV goes forward and an asteroid mission is given the go ahead, after that a Mars orbital mission would be given the go…

    sure…and tomorrow the Vulcans will land

    Robert G. Oler

  • Matt Wiser

    Until you can go to an airport and go SSTO, then spaceflight will never be routine. It’ll always be dangerous. You can mitigate the risk, with reliable launch abort systems and good work on the ground, but you’ll never eliminate the danger. If I’d gotten an invite to fly on the shuttle in its heyday, I would have. In a heartbeat. I still would.

    Ferris: Robots are fine pathfinders, going to places where humans can’t go yet (Mars, Jupiter/Outer Planets, etc.) but if you want to energize the next generation of explorers, what’s going to do that won’t be a robot being remotely commanded from Earth, it’ll be people doing something that has never been done. Going to the lunar poles: never been done. Lunar Farside-ditto. Asteroid, L-points, etc. Never been done. That’ll get people energized and supportive. There’s still a lot to be done on the moon, and I just wish that Bolden (however long he’s there), or Garver, would come out and say that human lunar return is on NASA’s agenda, after the NEO mission. Vague promises of such don’t cut it. This Flexible Path had better work. Ed Crawley sold me on it when I saw his presentation on NASA’s Youtube channel, and he convinced me (I was a Moon First/CxP supporter). He “made the sale.” If that had been Bolden or Garver doing it, then a lot of opposition to the new program would’ve been mitigated. Not eliminated-but at the very least, softened.

  • Mike Snyder

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Don’ tell me it is a bad assumption or that I have no idea what the cost will be. You are mistaken. The simple fact is a SDLV rocket will not carry the same costs as the current STS program because the rocket only is a “project level” and boosts whatever to LEO. It’s job ends there.

    Coastal Ron wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    I was simply stating the fact that the orbiter is a payload that does indeed carry a payload. Do not look more into it.

    As for the rest of your post, it is common knowledge – certainly among launch providers – that the government cannot compete against a company that can provide that service. That is nothing new and it has been known and suggested an HLV is desired for several years now. No one has stepped up to the plate when there was plenty of oppurtunity if your theory was valid.

    The reason is because no company is going to invest the very large capital resources to develop such a rocket if NASA is the only customer and they can sell it to someone else. The day may come when the market drives an HLV. If and when that happens, that will be great, and it will be time for an SDLV to step out of the way. However, until that time, it is appropriate for NASA to provide the hardware given the host of other considerations, some of which I have mentioned above.

  • Coastal Ron

    silence dogood wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    What intrigues me is what is to come down the line…if VG and/or BO or Orbital (they’re not dead yet) succeed, the natural line of reasoning is to believe that NASA will be responsible for oversight.

    Yet, within the scope of the law, the FAA is the agency of authority.

    That is going to be interesting. As an outsider, I’m not aware of any regulatory authority that NASA has, and I would imagine that although NASA may be the ones to set the standards (at least initially), that other agencies will be responsible for inspecting and enforcing them.

    But that’s just a guess on my part, and it will be interesting to see how this all plays out, which should start in the next year or so.

  • I will NEVER forgive the damage that Barack Obama has done to NASA & the U.S. space program! Project Constellation was our best hope for finally leaving earth orbit after a forty-year wait! I now place all my hopes with the Republicans, as the party that will eventually get America back to doing majestic things in the space arena, things worthy of a grandiose nation, that puts its mind to something, and moves mountains. I want to see a Republican make it to the White House, come 2012, and him/her to restore the Orion-Altair plan for the Moon, because voyaging to another world is a thing of grandeur; and this nation must build upon what was accomplished with Apollo, and take it all to an expanded level. Antarctic-type bases on the Moon, would’ve CLEARLY been in our future, if Constellation would’ve been allowed to fly. Have any of these naysayers ever even bothered to read the synopsis of what the Orion-Altair plan would’ve set out to accomplish??! (Do these Anti-Moon people even remember that there was actually MORE than one landing expedition to Luna??) I for one will be voting with full enthusiasm, for whoever runs against President Obama, on the Republican side. Go Tea Party!

  • Martijn Meijering

    Commercial launch service providers have not built HLVs because there is no market for it, not even a government market. Governments do not need an HLV and to the degree they want one it is as a make work project, in which case they would never choose a privately built HLV. Observe what you happened: Congress didn’t authorise NASA to procure an HLV competitively, it instructed it to build an SDLV, with explicit instructions concerning sizing and the components to be used. And the senators who cooked up this deal openly bragged about how it saved jobs in their home states afterwards.

  • Dennis Berube

    Well cheer up as any ship (ORION), that can make it to an asteroid, can also make it back to the Moon, or even on to Mars. Building future landers is what will be needed in the future.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Don’ tell me it is a bad assumption or that I have no idea what the cost will be. You are mistaken. The simple fact is a SDLV rocket will not carry the same costs as the current STS program because the rocket only is a “project level” and boosts whatever to LEO. It’s job ends there. ..

    you keep making statements like the above then I will start telling you that you either dont know what you are talking about or are naively optimistic.

    A SDLV would not carry the same cost, if “same” is defined as where the money is spent, but in all respects every shuttle derived vehicle I have seen carries similar if not higher cost then the shuttle system did to operate.

    A SDLV that is NASA operated and NASA controlled wont be “just a booster”…it will be like the shuttle was a foundation to an entire “program” as in a “program” for full employment at NASA and the contractors…

    There is no study of a SDV (unless it is the paper thin ones done by the DIRECT people) that have A SDV as being significantly cheaper to operate then the shuttle system. Arex for heavens sake was more expensive then the shuttle system and that was just the one that carried people to and fro the space station.

    NASA HSF has no notion of “cost” vrs value. This is why the Five Segment SRB’s were recoverable apparantly with no thought as to that being cheaper or not until the money started getting tight then rocket scientist Jeff H said something like “we ought to find out”.

    Now I agree with you that a NASA run SDV could be run cheaper…but that wont happen. There is not a single time in the shuttle era where NASA has made significant cost reductions in the operation of the system.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 9:09 pm


    Until you can go to an airport and go SSTO, then spaceflight will never be routine. It’ll always be dangerous.

    that doesnt make sense. the type of booster has no real impact on safety…this line only shows you understand safety about like the thunderheads at JSC…ie not at all.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mr. Wiser

    I agree, you need airplane style operations. But, again, I pose the question – why MUST it be an SSTO? Why not other tech? You mentioned equivalent tech in your earlier post – Why can’t you make a TSTO RLV do that? Yes, that does mean there are 2 vehicles to operate, but that shouldn’t be a show stopper.

    Or what if it were something more exotic – gas gun? Space Elevator? Airship to orbit? Etc. Why can’t those be considered equivalent tech?

    Why is SSTO the “only thing” that can reach the level of safety in your mind? why can’t you make an TSTO RLV safe?

    BTW, Garver has said lunar return isn’t off the table. She said it a few weeks ago. And I do agree that a better sale by Bolden & Garver would’ve helped, although how much, I think, is open for debate. For 2 reasons – first, a good number of legislatures have other things on their plates that are of concern, rather than destination. And, the other part of the equation – Mike Griffin KNOWS how to talk to space cadets, particularly those who buy into NASA mystique

  • Chris Castro wrote:

    I will NEVER forgive the damage that Barack Obama has done to NASA & the U.S. space program! Project Constellation was our best hope for finally leaving earth orbit after a forty-year wait!

    ROTFLMAO!!

    Constellation was a disaster. That was the conclusion of the independent Government Accountability Office, and the conclusion of the independent Augustine Commission. The GAO said that Constellation was behind schedule, over budget and badly managed. Why? Because the Bush Administration underfunded it. The GAO said it lacked a “sound business case.” And the Augustine Commission only confirmed what the GAO said.

    To properly fund Constellation was going to require the cancellation of every other significant NASA program. That was another Bush administration decision, back in 2005.

    Augustine found that the first lunar mission wouldn’t have been until 2028. And there was no funding in the Bush plan for a lander. So all they would have done is looped around the Moon and come back. We did that in 1968.

    I don’t know why you think we should blow the NASA budget and destroy every other significant NASA program just to repeat what we already did more than 40 years ago.

    For humanity to realistically establish a permanent presence beyond LEO will require reducing the cost by developing new technologies. That’s what the Obama Administration is doing — and it also happens to be NASA’s purpose according to federal law. The National Aeronautics and Space Act says nothing about launching humans, leaving Earth orbit or exploring other worlds. But it does require NASA to develop new technologies and hasten commercial access to space.

    Or, as another regular contributor to this site often writes … Don’t make things up.

  • Vladislaw

    Chris Castro wrote:

    “Antarctic-type bases on the Moon, would’ve CLEARLY been in our future, if Constellation would’ve been allowed to fly. Have any of these naysayers ever even bothered to read the synopsis of what the Orion-Altair plan would’ve set out to accomplish??! “

    How was this going to be paid for? NASA couldn’t even get the Ares I built on time and budget, how was was the Ares V, EDS, Altair lander, lunar base(s) and any ISRU going to get funded?

  • As an outsider, I’m not aware of any regulatory authority that NASA has, and I would imagine that although NASA may be the ones to set the standards (at least initially), that other agencies will be responsible for inspecting and enforcing them.

    NASA has no regulatory authority, and it should not. It can set standards for vehicles/flights that carry its payloads (including NASA personnel) but it has no say over how private passengers are handled.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg on his blog wrote:

    “One of the many travesties of Constellation is that, in attempting to redo Apollo, it ate up all the funding for serious preparatory exploration of the moon that would have provided a lot better guidance to requirements for human lunar activities.”

    Rand and I disagree on many things but he has hit the nail right on the head with this statement (and his entire post is not that bad either)…

    In many respects the tragedy of Constellation was that it ate up a lot of cash and really did nothing. People like Mark Whittington will argue (he does on his web site) that Cx was never funded to the full amount…but gee even had the program done something with full funding…what an enormous amount of money that would have been for not a very lot of accomplishment.

    But as it is a lot of money was spent, and in the end of it there is not a lot to show for it EXCEPT what was not done. And in that includes a serious uncrewed exploration of the Moon. Imagine what we would know if say 1/2 of the 10 billion spent on Cx had been spent on a coordinated effort to explore the Moon with uncrewed vehicles.

    Gov. Bill Richardson has done an amazing thing in the southern high desert of New Mexico. He has shown in micro how the opportunity, with not a lot of funds can be created that uses the lure of human spaceflight to create a better life on Earth, for the vast majority of the citizenry who will never fly in space.

    I think that people will one day go back to the Moon (I suspect that the first ones back will also be Americans).and I suspect that it will be a government program that does it…..but that will only happen when HSF does in Earth orbit what the spaceport in New Mexico is doing in NM…creating opportunities for change on Earth…that are not purely a creature of government spending.

    The irony in the opposition to the changes in Space policy of this administration is that they come mostly from people who in normal events would argue for “privatization everywhere”…what Whittington, Spudis and a few others are arguing for is a government program that exist for a reason that has very little public support.

    In the end what the change in policy can enable is a robust US National space industry; one that is more like aviation and less like the government toy NASA HSF has become accustomed to.

    We are at a time of great change in The Republic …and all in all the page turned in human spaceflight has the potential to enable a great future.

    Kudo’s to Gov. Bill Richardson and all the other thinkers inside government that recognize in a free society; free enterprise properly stimulated and regulated…is a good thing

    Robert G. Oler

  • MichaelC

    Actually the main determination of safety is the safety margins designed into the materials. The alloys and the temperatures and vibration in launch vehicles have a small margin due to limited ISP of chemical fuels and the accompanied need for lightweight. So the “type” of booster is THE determining factor in safety.

  • Mike Snyder

    Robert,

    Your hypocracy is disturbing. You never produce data to back up anything you ever say and yet you make these grand proclomations as if you are “in the know”.

    You insult at every turn making yourself look petty and immature and now you threaten to do the same with me because I happen to speak the truth and logic.

    If you are so sure of everything, and have the access and credentials you claim to have (which has never been verified), do something about it. Make yourself known instead of seemingly only existing here. I’ll tell you what, lets meet at the next PRCB, FRR or host of other official forums, your choice, and you can share your concerns then and there. The ball is yours.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Mike

    “do something about it”…thats the problem of course, nothing can be done about it.

    The safety culture at NASA HSF is so fundamentally flawed that the only thing that will change it, is to delete the entire culture and start over. The Navy can lose a nuclear attack boat due to “similar” problems and command comes in flushes all the turds and out they go and puts the fear of the allmighty in the new people that “things are going to work” and hence Thresher is a one time event.

    NASA loses Challenger, all the turds who caused it more or less stay; a few minor changes are made and before long the old rhythms are back. flying with hydrogen leaks etc etc…then before long random chance goes against them and another one bites the dust and “gee we forgot the lessons of Challenger” are all the rage once again…but really the truth is that the lessons were never learned.

    How to operate complex pieces of equipment “safely” is not all that much of a mystery, the US is in particular very good at it…but NASA HSF has been adept at cloaking catastrophe behind “we are docking at 17,500mph” BS and really the politicians dont care all that much because the organization itself doesn’t do things that are that important…so as long as the body count is fairly light then the show keeps on…until the politicians get scared enough that they want it stopped.

    And that is where things are with shuttle.

    NASA HSF discussing flight safety is like Jack the Ripper discussing crime…and you can go and figure out how.

    The best news is that the entire show is about to grind to a halt, and eventually we can pick up the pieces from there.

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 23rd, 2010 at 11:05 am

    “There really is no South Pole exploration without the DC-3 or C-130 all of which were created for non exploration efforts. Until that cycle works in human space flight, the cost for the unique vehicles are just to high and the benefits to little (dispite the cheerleading of people like Whittington)…”

    Your analogy using the cookie-cutter aviation template for development of exploratory spacecraft is understandable but not workable for preliminary, specialized spacecraft needed for unique, exploratory trips to different worlds with different environments. Firstly, aircraft development templates overlay basic fundimentals and operational parameters unique to the charactistics of flight in the atmosphere of Planet Earth. And several derivatives were tried and discarded– or modified- before the DC-3 and C-130 designs were flushed out and stamped out in droves. They’re unique just as development of spacecraft for voyages to different places must be unique for the places they’re headed. (Bear in mind, the Russians have been lofting a cookie-cutter spacecraft, a la your ‘DC-3′ methodology of sorts– longer than the breadth of the heyday era of the DC-3 itself— their Soyuz/Progress design, for over 40 years. Soyuz was designed for modification for lunar flights, too, and its baseline design sold to China.) Dveloping ‘base block’ Orion spacecraft for potential modification follows that line of thinking, albeit on a grander scale. As noted in other posts, the chief stumbling block in Constellation was Griffin’s lousy rocket. Modifying existing LVs for Orion would be a wiser move.

    A LM worked fine for a lunar landing but wouldn’t be very practical for a Mars landing. And your polar analogy is a bit strained. After all, those areas were first reached and initial exploratory ventures conducted by sailing ship, several of which modified for their specialized voyages by each expedition and shared a commonality basic to sailing vessels of the period, like sails, a hull and a compass, unique for operating upon the seas of Earth. In this era, given the state of the technologies at hand and the available finances, Chris Kraft’s approach to expanding the human experience out to the moon on a permanent basis, perfecting architecture, operations and procedures then pressing on to Mars, is the correct and logical approach. The rest of this silly stuff about visiting asteroids or setting up fueling stations and such are unrealistic in this era and a waste of time and resources. Humans have yet to explore the moon. They’ve shown that they’re capable of landing and keeping a pair of their species alive for six brief stays of a day or two at the dawn on a lunar day. Talk of trips to Mars or deep space voyages to asteroids especially in this era is just silly talk and may actually do damage to any realistic, practical plans, like Kraft’s, in this era of austerity.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Simberg’s error is to blame Constellation as a whole. It’s weak link was Ares. Griffin’s goofy rocket was the wrong way to go and poor leadership has filled the vaccum at NASA for years because the WH has not held space as national priority since the days of LBJ. Constellation was underfunded by the Bush administration, just as Pappy Bush didn’t fight to fund his own ‘back to the moon’ initiative announced in July, 1989. Republicans in general and conservatives in particular have never been ‘friends’ to NASA or to space exploration. But they love waving the flag over it.

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Actually the main determination of safety is the safety margins designed into the materials.

    Materials are materials, and you can’t add “safety margins” into them. It’s how engineers use them that determines their “safety margins”.

    The alloys and the temperatures and vibration in launch vehicles have a small margin due to limited ISP of chemical fuels and the accompanied need for lightweight.

    To me, this is a mish-mash of a statement – you’re confusing lots of stuff here, and not making your point at all.

    For instance, to a certain degree, a rocket doesn’t care what engine is being used to push it. Big, small, high ISP, low ISP – it’s all thrust. Vibration can be an issue, like with solid-fuel engines (the Ares I issue), but liquid-fueled rockets don’t seem to have issues with this.

    So the “type” of booster is THE determining factor in safety.

    I would say the failure mode of a rocket is what affects safety the most, and what systems are in place to survive those failure modes.

    For the Shuttle, with the crew mounted on the side, a Challenger-like failure is very likely to affect the crew vehicle (i.e. very unsafe). For an Ares I-type vehicle, the solid-fuel engine cannot be shutoff, which drove the need for the largest LAS ever designed, and one that has to deliver bone-crushing acceleration to out-run the following 1st stage. Not a big improvement over the Shuttle.

    Liquid-fueled rockets with crew capsules on top can have more benign failure modes, since the engines can be turned off and the crew is partially shielded by the 2nd stage. However, with so much fuel involved, there are failure modes with all rockets that you’d prefer not to happen…

  • MichaelC

    “a robust US National space industry; one that is more like aviation”

    No. That is what the shuttle program tried to do. You are fundamentally mistaken Oler. It is not like aviation.

  • common sense

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    “People like Mark Whittington will argue (he does on his web site) that Cx was never funded to the full amount…but gee even had the program done something with full funding…what an enormous amount of money that would have been for not a very lot of accomplishment.”

    Whoever makes statement like Constellation was not fully funded do not make any sense and do not understand what they are talking about, not a word. They have the problem reversed. You see the original direction for the VSE was to make do with what they had. This is why O’Keefe et al. used the spiral development approach. A measured and paced approach to tech development which btw included EELVs as launchers for the then CEV.

    When Griffin took the helm he chose an architecture which at best would require a lot more than the HSF funding within NASA, hence the pillage of other programs making a lot of friends there on the way which always helps… The so called ESAS architecture also killed a lot of R&D programs required for BEO exploration at NASA! And at worst Constellation would require a lot more than the “whole” NASA budget. The early direction from Griffin was to fly a CEV by 2012 with a push toward 2011. Believe me or not but this was absolutely impossible and NASA knew it.

    Now, guess what happened!!!

  • common sense

    @DCSCA wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    “Simberg’s error is to blame Constellation as a whole. It’s weak link was Ares. Griffin’s goofy rocket was the wrong way to go and poor leadership has filled the vaccum at NASA for years because the WH has not held space as national priority since the days of LBJ.”

    As Robert would say, I don’t agree a lot with Rand about many things BUT if Rand blamed Constellation as a whole he is right (see my post above) and you have no idea what you’re talking about. Yet one more time…

    “Constellation was underfunded by the Bush administration, just as Pappy Bush didn’t fight to fund his own ‘back to the moon’ initiative announced in July, 1989. Republicans in general and conservatives in particular have never been ‘friends’ to NASA or to space exploration. But they love waving the flag over it.”

    Constellation never was underfunded. Constellation as in ESAS never had a chance of making it and a lot of people knew it including NASA. Maybe Griffin did not know but I doubt it.

  • Mike Snyder

    common sense wrote:

    “Whoever makes statement like Constellation was not fully funded do not make any sense and do not understand what they are talking about, not a word. They have the problem reversed.”

    Actually, it is a matter of public record that the Authorization bills passed by Congress that authorized Constellation (and the chosen architecture) and the supposed funding did not match what was actually appropriated.

    This was consistent time and time again, with both parties in control of Congress, so what he said was quite correct.

  • silence dogood

    Rand Simberg wrote:

    “NASA has no regulatory authority, and it should not. It can set standards for vehicles/flights that carry its payloads (including NASA personnel) but it has no say over how private passengers are handled”

    Rand, I’m curious: Why shouldn’t NASA have regulatory authority over commerical spacecraft? My point here is that at present, the FAA is the Agency with agency authority.

    Can anyone on this forum convince me that the FAA have the neccessary technical expertise to render appropriate oversight over fledgling commerical space vehicles?

    If they don’t have the appropriate technical expertise, yet they are the regulatory authority, what does this mean?

    I wasn’t blatant about why I said FAA’s regulatory authority would be interesting–the technical appropriateness of said authority is one facet of why I am raising this here.

  • Vladislaw

    DCSCA wrote”

    “The rest of this silly stuff about visiting asteroids or setting up fueling stations”

    If you want to read some silly stuff, read the above sentence.

    Trains stopped to take on wood/coal and water, cars stop at gas stations, planes stop at hangers, ships stop at ports. Hell even the horse and wagon had the livery stable and blacksmith shop. Every single form of transportation we have is made less expensive and open to the masses because we always stopped to refuel. And we are only talking about the maximum terrestrial distance of 24,000 miles.

    Now you are you going to try and argue, that as we leave earth, on distances far greater by orders of magnitude and abandon a winning strategy won over the course of 2 centuries?

    Gas/fuel/resupply stations are …. silly?

    The idea that we do not already have fuel stations in space after apollo is what is silly.

  • Freddo

    Why shouldn’t NASA have regulatory authority over commerical spacecraft? My point here is that at present, the FAA is the Agency with agency authority.

    NASA isn’t a regulatory agency. They are, though, free to impose standards above and beyond what the FAA requires for those spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts.

  • Can anyone on this forum convince me that the FAA have the neccessary technical expertise to render appropriate oversight over fledgling commerical space vehicles?

    It has been doing so for over two decades, for vehicles that deliver payloads costing a billion dollars or more. It is its charter to do so, and it has legislative authority. NASA does not. Furthermore, if NASA insists on developing and operating its own vehicles, regulating others’ commercial vehicles creates an intrinsic conflict of interest.

  • The idea that we do not already have fuel stations in space after apollo is what is silly.

    If illogicians like DCSCA had their way, you would need a tanker truck full of gasoline to drive across the country.

  • silence dogood wrote:

    Rand, I’m curious: Why shouldn’t NASA have regulatory authority over commerical spacecraft? My point here is that at present, the FAA is the Agency with agency authority.

    Can anyone on this forum convince me that the FAA have the neccessary technical expertise to render appropriate oversight over fledgling commerical space vehicles?

    The FAA already has the authority to regulate commercial space vehicles.

    To quote from:

    http://people.howstuffworks.com/faa3.htm

    The aerospace areas licensed or certified by the FAA include:

    * Personnel (pilots, instructors, engineers, mechanics, air traffic controllers)
    * Aircraft
    * Airlines
    * Airports
    * Air traffic management facilities
    * Commercial air freight facilities
    * Commercial space launch facilities
    * Commercial space vehicles

    NASA has no authority under the National Aeronautics and Space Act to regulate anyone. Their primary job is aeronautics/aerospace research.

    That said, NASA can have an indirect regulatory authority by purchasing flights from commercial vendors whose equipment meets NASA’s standards. If they don’t meet the standards … NASA takes its business elsewhere.

    It should also be noted that one of NASA’s original purposes, as specified in the Act, is to assist other government agencies. So NASA can be an advisor to the FAA if need be.

    But asking NASA to play cop is the same problem as asking the military to police deep-rooted civil unrest in Third World nations. If you want cops, you get cops.

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    No. That is what the shuttle program tried to do. You are fundamentally mistaken Oler. It is not like aviation.

    The Shuttle was a government “program” that had to be continuously funded by Congress in order to launch. In no way did it resemble commercial aerospace or aviation, which survives on the needs of the marketplace (i.e. paying customers).

    If our space program is going to continue to be 100% dependent on government funding, then we’ll never be able to expand into space – there must be funding from more than NASA.

    At this time there is a robust commercial marketplace for satellites, and there appears to be a potential market for services such as crew & cargo transportation to LEO, and possibly private space stations for lease.

    The government can either encourage capitalism (i.e. commercial space), or continue to get in it’s way. With capitalism, NASA has many more partners to make it’s funding go much further. Without it, well, we’ll continue wasting money on “programs” that don’t survive without powerful friends in Congress.

  • Rhyolite

    silence dogood wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    “Can anyone on this forum convince me that the FAA have the neccessary technical expertise to render appropriate oversight over fledgling commerical space vehicles?”

    The FAA has had regulatory authority over commercial launch vehicles (Atlas, Delta, Pegasus, Falcon, etc. when used for commercial launches) since 1984. That’s 26 years of experience with launch vehicles.

    The FAA, obviously, has had regulatory authority over passenger aviation since it was created in 1958 and even longer through it’s predecessor agencies.

    The FAA has the technical experience and seems to be ideally situated at the intersection between commercial launch and passenger spaceflight. NASA on the other hand, has no regulatory experience and no regulatory authority granted by congress.

  • Coastal Ron

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    here’s the link to FAA regulations for commercial space:

    Thanks Stephen (and others) – it’s nice to know that an agency is already in regulatory position to manage the new commercial spaceflight industry.

    The FAA may need knowledge and experience, but getting laws on the books during this next congressional session would have been pretty hard, and I wouldn’t want that to hold up commercial crew…

  • Matt Wiser

    Ferris, a better sale would have helped a lot. It would’ve been better if Bolden was doing it, but after that disaster of a budget rollout, he admitted that he didn’t listen to his PAOs (at a prelaunch briefing for a shuttle flight that month). Garver, maybe, but she’s still seen in some circles as a “stooge for the commercial spaceflight industry.” That original FY 11 budget was viewed as being Garver’s work by some (check the Houston Chronicle, Orlando Sentnel, etc. for some of that), so she might not have been a good choice. Now, if, and I do mean IF, Bolden had listened to his PAOs, his first impression with Congress would’ve been somewhat better.

    I was just using SSTO as an example. Not as the only possible route, but as an airline-type example.

    What probably should’ve happened, but didn’t, was this: Bolden or Garver at a House or Senate Hearing and explaining why a NEO asteroid was the first destination instead of the Moon. Something along the lines of “Just because we’re going to an asteroid first doesn’t mean we’re not going back to the moon. It’s just that the President challenged NASA to do something different first. No one has ever been to an asteroid before, and we can learn about asteroid composition, whether it’s possible to deflect one, and so forth. On the way there and back, we’ll be learning how to fly in deep space, gathering radiation data and human biomedical data, which we’ll need for Mars. But yes, in the mid to late 2020s, you will see humans returning to the Moon.” They said no such thing, and those who railed against not having firm destinations and deadlines had plenty of ammunition as a result.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MichaelC wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Actually the main determination of safety is the safety margins designed into the materials.

    no.

    The main determination of safety is the standards procedures and methods (spm) by which a vehicle is operated. As long as a vehicle is operated within the approved SPM’s then the vehicle is “safe”…

    the materials safety margin only give you a wider (or more narrow) spm to operate in.

    The Challenger and Columbia incident are a prime example of this.

    Robert G. oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    silence dogood wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 7:41 pm


    Can anyone on this forum convince me that the FAA have the neccessary technical expertise to render appropriate oversight over fledgling commerical space vehicles?

    this is what the FAA does.

    NASA is not capable of regulating the industry; they cannot even regulate themselves to fly safely (14 dead astronauts due to incompetence and a bunch that are very lucky that their vehicle did not go “bang”)…

    The FAA does this for aerospace. The necessary expertise can be hired; but more importantly the FAA has a clue how to come up with the proper level of regulation given the state of maturity of the industy. The aviation industry today is a tribute to this.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    MichaelC wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 5:19 pm


    No. That is what the shuttle program tried to do. You are fundamentally mistaken Oler. It is not like aviation.

    just because NASA floundered at running an operational vehicle doesnt mean that it cannot be done, as in aviation. Watch…the next 5-10 years are going to show that it can be done.

    Bet on it

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 7:11 pm
    common sense wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    no matter if Cx got all the money it was suppose to get or did not, it GOT 10 billion or so dollars for it; and it is hard to see 10 billion worth of effort there.

    NASA HSF is good at over promising and under delivering

    Robert G. Oler

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    Re.: Safety.

    I suspect that Congress will only get serious about arranging a regulatory body for commercial human spaceflight (and I’m willing to bet that it won’t be NASA or an offshoot thereof) after the first few fatal accidents occur. and the politicians suddenly realise that this is potentially a problem. Before that, no-one would appreciate that the issue requires the effort, funding and, most importantly, the time out from lunches with lobbyists.

    I believe it is Mark Twain who said that history never repeats itself but it occasionally rhymes.

  • DCSCA

    common sense wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 6:37 pm – It was underfunded. But it’s done. The weak link was Ares. The whole space agency has been underfunded for two decades. The money wasted on the current conflicts in two months would keep NASA flush for a budget cycle or two.

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 8:25 pm =sigh= It’s not illogical- it’s simply impractical and improbable in this era of austerity. And talk of it displays an increasing disconnect from the dismal economics of our times. Don’t believe there’s ever been a publicly demonstrated, successful ‘refueling’ on orbit yet either so ‘fuel depot’ chatter is that much more pie in the sky talk. Wistful talk for drawing board space vehicles of a paper space program goes along with dreams of space elevators and artificial gravity on rotating space stations. This is reality: 60 Minutes ran a segment Sunday night on Silicon Valley and San Jose’s unemployed. 22% of Californians are out of work, working parttime, under-employed or just given up trying to get a gig to put food on the table. When your tax base is shrinking like that, with well-educated people losing jobs and homes just trying to survive, goofy talk of space fuel depots and planning trips to to asteroids make ‘space cadets’ seem that much more disconnected from reality. And it makes it harder for genuine policy planners and engineers to pitch more pragmatic projects in line with current budget constraints in these hard times. Canning Ares and getting Orion flying is a practical path to follow for the Age of austerity along with the budding commerical efforts. Fuel depots and lassoing asteroids are just pie in the sky.

  • DCSCA

    @Vladislaw wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 8:01 pm Gas/fuel/resupply stations are …. silly? Yes, they are, especially in the age of austerity. And, of course, there is no operational spacecraft yet existing to stop by for a fill-up. You’re proposing something a hundred years away. They’re still trying to perfect space toilets and water purfication systems and you’re talking about pit stops tens of thousands of miles out in space. Not practical for this era.

    @Oler “NASA is not capable of regulating the industry; they cannot even regulate themselves to fly safely (14 dead astronauts due to incompetence and a bunch that are very lucky that their vehicle did not go “bang”)…” NASA is not a business. It’s an R&D organization, or is suppsoed to be. Commerical aviation has killed a lot more passengers in routine service– and they’re ‘operational.’ And when they apply cost-cutting business models to commercial HSF you can expect deaths as well. Bet on it.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Don’t believe there’s ever been a publicly demonstrated, successful ‘refueling’ on orbit yet either so ‘fuel depot’ chatter is that much more pie in the sky talk.

    Excuse me? What about Salyut-7 (in 1978!), Mir and ISS? I’ve reminded you of this before, so it’s not as if you weren’t aware of it.

    They’re still trying to perfect space toilets and water purfication systems and you’re talking about pit stops tens of thousands of miles out in space. Not practical for this era.

    If that isn’t practical, then it is even less practical to go there without refueling.

    Canning Ares and getting Orion flying is a practical path to follow for the Age of austerity along with the budding commerical efforts.

    Canning Ares would have been a good idea, but they’re not really canning it (yet), because they are now going to build SLS. What is SLS other than a not very much lighter version of Ares? What they canned was Altair and the expectation of a moon base, which was part of their (unfounded) justification for Ares.

    Orion is potentially a good idea, but not if you’re already going to build commercial crew taxis, unless Orion is one of those commercial taxis.

    What they should have done is build a refuelable, horizontal Altair precursor, something like Buzz Aldrin’s XM or Huntress’ Deep Space Shuttle. Such a craft would be its own depot. That, and not another rocket to nowhere, would be a sensible way to run a space program on a tight budget.

  • Dennis Berube

    Oler, wow you sound like aperson who lost a NASA job! The more i hear you. When did NASA over promise and under deliver? From the start, NASA got us to the Moon, which was the objective of the time. With the Space Shuttle, they als o did what was claimed, by repairing sats. building the ISS, etc. etc. I dont see where they did not complete what they started? I suspect that if they get the asteroid mission, it too will be accomplished. Hopefully without the loss of life, but we never know, now do we?

  • Libby

    @Oler “NASA is not capable of regulating the industry; they cannot even regulate themselves to fly safely (14 dead astronauts due to incompetence and a bunch that are very lucky that their vehicle did not go “bang”)…”

    I think this is accurate. In the 1980s NASA did produce a series of standards for human space flight, called NASA Standard 3000, the Human Integration Standards. It was the first such industry standard and was widely adapted, and it was seen as groundbreaking. But in the 1990s NASA abolished the organization that produced the standards and now the functionality and expertise that used to be in that organization is hashed up and distributed in a variety of places. There is no one within NASA to manage such a standard. When the ISS on-board noise exceeded the NASA Standard, NASA simply changed the standard so that ISS could pass, despite the fact that astronauts continued to lose their hearing. NASA cannot police themselves and it would be interesting to see them try and police an industry.

  • Mike Snyder

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Again more talk but nothing of substance.

    As a supposed “consultant to the CAIB” I’m still waiting for you to provide something of value and actually put your money where your mouth is.

  • byeman

    “I suspect that Congress will only get serious about arranging a regulatory body for commercial human spaceflight (and I’m willing to bet that it won’t be NASA or an offshoot thereof)”

    Didn’t read the earlier threads? It already is the FAA.

  • Garver, maybe, but she’s still seen in some circles as a “stooge for the commercial spaceflight industry.”

    Funny, she used to be seen as a stooge for big aerospace and NASA when she ran NSS. I guess she can’t win.

    Don’t believe there’s ever been a publicly demonstrated, successful ‘refueling’ on orbit yet

    Just because you’re ignorant of things doesn’t mean they haven’t happened. Pseudonymous fools like you probably think that Amundsen was stupid to set up all those supply caches when he could have gotten to the South Pole by developing a Heavy-Lift Dogsled with five hundred huskies.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 5:27 am
    . It’s an R&D organization, or is suppsoed to be. Commerical aviation has killed a lot more passengers in routine service– and they’re ‘operational.’ And when they apply cost-cutting business models to commercial HSF you can expect deaths as well. Bet on it.

    NASA HSF is no more an R&D organization then Jack the Ripper was a social reformer.

    If the crews of Challenger and Columbia had been lost “pushing back that demon” then that is the cost of pushing back the demon…Bob Overmyer died doing just that.

    The two orbiters were lost not due to cost cutting but management incompetence.

    Good regulation by government agencies is designed to prevent the scenario that you mention.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dennis Berube wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 8:28 am

    your statement shows that you have not followed the Post Apollo history of NASA and HSF all that well.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Libby wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 8:51 am

    aside from the points you and I make, The ability to regulate requires some sense of where technology is vrs a cost point in terms of operations to make the operations of some value to society.

    The FAA has a pretty good handle on this balancing act. they do it in everything from light sport airplanes to uncrewed rockets. NASA has no clue about it in hsf…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Martijn Meijering

    With the Space Shuttle, they als o did what was claimed, by repairing sats.

    The Shuttle’s purported main goal was to reduce launch prices by an order of magnitude, something it spectacularly failed to achieve. Of course, its real mission was to create phoney baloney aerospace jobs, something it spectacularly succeeded at.

  • Martijn Meijering

    When did NASA over promise and under deliver?

    You’re kidding, right? OTV, OMV, NASP, X-33, OSP, Constellation etc.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 9:37 am

    when you can explain that the loss of Columbia and Challenger was not a result of agency incompetence, be sure and let me know. That way I can have a cup of coffee ready and sit back and enjoy the show..

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “The orbiter is payload that carries a payload.”

    No, an orbiter is the core stage of a Shuttle stack. It’s not a payload. The STS can’t reach orbit, carry a payload, or even fly straight with only two SRBs and the ET. The STS has to have the SSMEs, payload bay (or similar shroud), and avionics from the orbiter to get a payload into orbit.

    “EELV’s cannot put that much mass in orbit today.”

    Yes, they can. The Shuttle can put 24K kg into a standard LEO orbit. Multiple, existing Atlas V and Delta IV variants can put 20-25K kg into the same orbit.

    “A program has different costs than a project. A program incurs all the costs to achieve a particular goal. A project only incurs the cost to make it work and achieve its goals.”

    Your definitions for a program and a project are identical. According to you, a “program incurs all the costs to achieve a particular goal”, while a “project… incurs the cost to… achieve its goals”. That’s the same thing.

    “Also the orbiter is the most expensive piece of the STS PROGRAM and what we are discussing does not involve the orbiter.”

    Yes, it does. An SDHLV needs the SSMEs, payload bay (or similar shroud), and avionics from the orbiter to get a payload into orbit. Without those expensive orbiter elements, an SDHLV can’t reach orbit, carry a payload, or even fly straight with only two SRBs and the ET (side-mount) or ET-derived core-stage structure (inline).

    “NASA will have to subsidize whatever company produces the vehicle in order to ensure that capability is maintained.”

    Who says that NASA will be dumb enough to develop an HLV that it’s not going to use and have to pay to have that “capability… maintained” independent of other LVs?

    If NASA is smart, it will develop an HLV that leverages an LV infrastructure and workforce that has other vehicles, payloads, and customers besides the occasional human space exploration mission (like the EELV or Falcon infrastructure and workforce), then NASA won’t have to pay (or will have to pay relatively little) to maintain those infrastructure and workforce capabilities.

    But if NASA is dumb and develops an HLV that utilizes an LV infrastructure and workforce with no other vehicles, payloads, and customers besides the occasional human space exploration mission (like the Shuttle infrastructure and workforce), then NASA will have to pay enormous fixed costs to maintain those infrastructure and workforce capabilities.

    “My point has been in order to achieve the “Phase 2″ rockets, a new family is developed first.”

    No, it doesn’t. An Atlas V Phase 2 variant would be part of the Atlas V family. (Otherwise, it would be called the Atlas VI.) The Phase 2 variant uses the same engines as the existing Atlas V variants, for example.

    “the current Atlas family no longer exists.”

    This is more gibberish. The “Atlas family” certainly “exists”, especially if it’s “current”. The “current” Atlas V family has performed 22 launches (all successful) since 2002. The latest launch was just last month (September 21) for an NRO payload.

    “If ULA gets a “subsidy” from DOD now and will recieve some sort of “subsidy” from NASA – all to ensure some minimal capability is maintained – then it must be evaluated that this does not negatively impact other providers for the launch market that does exist beyond the government.”

    Even if NASA has to make some modest payment to ULA to maintain, say, an HLV engineering team (which would be much less expensive than maintaining most of the Shuttle infrastructure and workforce), that will have no impact on any other launch providers. NASA is the only customer for an HLV. No other customer is buying HLV launches, so, by definition, no other launch provider is impacted. If NASA picks ULA for HLV, ULA isn’t going to undercut any other launch provider trying to sell HLVs to other customers, because there are none.

    “This is on top of making sure that NASA and DOD requirements are not in conflict with one another.”

    DOD has no requirements for an HLV. There is nothing for NASA requirements to conflict with.

    “I have not been rude to you during this ‘debate’…”

    Sure you have. In your very first reply to me, you claimed that I “only hear what [I] want to hear” and that I and other posters here “must subscribe to a certain mentality.” I’ve thrown no such insults and ad hominem attacks at you.

    Debate the post, not the poster.

    FWIW…

  • Mike Snyder

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 11:47 am

    “Good regulation by government agencies is designed to prevent the scenario that you mention.”

    Yes, because that is completely always going to be the case. For example, look at the Deep Water Horizon incident. Now likely you are going to try to point out the use of “good” but that is subjective and cannot be easily quantified.

    In addition, you cannot call out one group of people and call them “incompetent” and suggest the absolute answer is “government regulation” by different government employees. Again, look at the incident in the Gulf because your bias and agenda is permeating everything you say. But again, as a “consultant to the CAIB” you should probably speak up if you believe this “incompetence” is rampant.

  • Vladislaw

    DCSCA wrote:

    “@Vladislaw wrote @ October 24th, 2010 at 8:01 pm Gas/fuel/resupply stations are …. silly? Yes, they are, especially in the age of austerity. And, of course, there is no operational spacecraft yet existing to stop by for a fill-up.”

    So in the age of asterity we should launch billion dollar disposable rockets for BEO? We should focus on designing systems where we can destroy as much hardware as possible for each flight with only a tiny capsule remaining that plunges into the ocean and the intrepid astronauts crawl up the sandy beach and we can reflect how they started with a 50 story rocket and all that is left is their tiny capsule .. man now thats entertainment!

    You say there isn’t any operational spacecraft to take advantage of a fuel station, well, there isn’t any operational EDS at all, for inspace refueling or launched to LEO fully fueled. But one will be built for any BEO missions. The question is, do we build a huge heavy lift system so we can send that one time use EDS fully fueled … OR … do we send up a reusable EDS unfueled on an EELV and fuel it in space.

    Since NONE of the hardware exists the question becomes do we design intelligently, and utilize the lessons learned in transportation over the last two centuries and design with commercial gas stations in the supply chain or do we try and redo an unsustainable APOLLO program.

  • MichaelC

    “the next 5-10 years are going to show that it can be done.”

    Without an HLV we are not going anywhere.

  • Mike Snyder

    Tom,

    I have debated the post. As for the “poster” you are the one that is increasingly rude and it fair to note that.

    You also are wrong on many fronts.

    For example, with respect to the STS, what is injected into orbit? The answer is, of course, the orbiter and the payload it is carrying. That is why it quite safe to say the orbiter is a payload that carries a payload. It is also quite safe to say this is why a SDLV can launch ~75mT into orbit.

    If you would like to know more about various responsibilities of “Programs” and “Projects” there is ample information available. For example STS is a Program. It consists of various project offices, some of which are Orbiter, ET, SRB and SSME. CxP is another example of a Program. It consisted of Orion, Ares, etc Projects. The costs and responsibilities of these Projects are rolled into, and subservient, to the Program costs and objectives.

    As for the EELV discussion, well I stand by everything I said and in the course of your rather long post, you begin to contradict yourself and are saying things like “even if” this or that. I’m quite confident in what I am saying and there is no need for the hostility. As I said, it is not that an EELV-based HLV is not technically possible, there are just issues that first must be addressed and just one of those issues are cost.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Yes, because that is completely always going to be the case

    if you believe that then you are not thinking straight.

    Regulation by government is as good as 1) the folks who are on the political side of the executive branch, 2) the infrastructure of the civil service side of the agency in charge of regulation and 3) to some extent public opinion.

    Offshore drilling is of course a pretty good example of all of that…but so is air commerce. I was out in San Diego recently on business and had a sort of good time remarking about how we were sitting pretty near the “event” which caused the start of more or less positive control (what is now called Class B) airspace around terminal facilities. Thats not the first time accidents have moved the political aspects of regulation and it wont be the last…

    what the “fix” which resulted from the Lindbergh event (San Diego) or even farther back the “Grand Canyon” collision enabled was not to prevent what were isolated random events; but to allow the growth of a system which would allow “more better” air traffic control as traffic continued to grow. And they have done that.

    But the problem with the NASA HSF and the thunderheads who have run HSF under NASA being anywhere near regulation of commercial activities… is that they (NASA HSF) is simply unable to regulate itself in a very effective manner.

    It wasnt that either challenger or columbia (or the many near misses in between) were the result of some random occurrence. They were almost pre planned as the jerks running the program disregarded notions as basic to flight safety as opening a door before you walk through it.

    And any structure which tolerates that, really has no business existing, much less holding the future of a vital sector of the American economy in its grasp.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    . Again, look at the incident in the Gulf because your bias and agenda is permeating everything you say.

    a minor point.

    the incident in the gulf was not a result of bad regulation, it was a result of effectively no regulation. Under Mr. Bush and Cheney the agency that regulated offshore drilling became a holding ground for industry toadies who did little apparantly but sign forms already filled out by the folks that they were regulating (as well as take “things” from them).

    What caused Challenger and Columbia and allowed the lots of near misses in between was not bad regulation…it was direct bad management by the people who were actually running the program. And unlike the folks at the agency who regulated off shore drilling who have been shown the door…last I checked most of the jerks who were involved in the Columbia decision still held down a pay check at NASA…where is Linda H these days now that Cx is spinning down?

    Station management?

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    MichaelC wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    “the next 5-10 years are going to show that it can be done.”

    Without an HLV we are not going anywhere…

    oh yes we are. Robert G. Oler

  • Without an HLV we are not going anywhere.

    As long as we wait for an unneeded HLV to go somewhere we are not going anywhere. This is the story of the last forty years.

  • Mike Snyder

    Robert Oler,

    So again, as a “consultant to the CAIB” why are you not using your power and influence that you have claimed to have?

    Why the mean, and seemingly bitter, attitude and unprofessional name-calling all of the time?

    Again, you have the ball Robert G. Oler and again it is time to put your money where your mouth is in the appropriate forum of your choosing. So, again, I ask you to use your access and credentials you claim to have and perform your responsibility as a “consultant of the CAIB” and produce something tangible and of value.

  • MichaelC

    “They were almost pre planned as the jerks running the program disregarded notions as basic to flight safety as opening a door before you walk through it.”

    Hyperbole aside, what you are leaving out is what really caused these mishaps; making or saving a buck.

    Your aviation fantasy of running a space airline is fundamentally mistaken. You are making the same mistake as those you say were blindly walking into doors.

  • common sense

    @Mike Snyder wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    “For example, with respect to the STS, what is injected into orbit? The answer is, of course, the orbiter and the payload it is carrying. That is why it quite safe to say the orbiter is a payload that carries a payload. It is also quite safe to say this is why a SDLV can launch ~75mT into orbit.”

    Why do I sense that an argument for some Jupiter vehicle is coming next? You’d not mind having to expend very expensive SSMEs among other things?

    Oh well…

  • MichaelC

    (NASA HSF) is simply unable to regulate itself in a very effective manner.

    No criticism like this can be taken seriously while promoting the idea that for profit industry can regulate itself any better. You are begging the question since there is no market for anything in space except telecommunications satellites.

  • Mike Snyder

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Oh, and another note and everyone pardon a second post, but clearly you didn’t see that was sarcasm. I figured that would be evident based on the content of the remained of the post but apologize to others if that was unclear.

    Instead Robert seemed to just use that one sentance, ignoring the rest, to launch into yet another rant of questionable, in my opinion, value.

  • Major Tom

    “I have debated the post.”

    For the most part. But in your very first reply to me, you claimed that I “only hear what [I] want to hear” and that I and other posters here “must subscribe to a certain mentality.”

    “As for the ‘poster’ you are the one that is increasingly rude and it fair to note that.”

    I’ve thrown no insults and ad hominem attacks at you like the ones you threw at me and other posters in your very first post.

    “For example, with respect to the STS, what is injected into orbit? The answer is, of course, the orbiter and the payload it is carrying. That is why it quite safe to say the orbiter is a payload that carries a payload.”

    Upper stages on many other launch vehicles also achieve orbit. Those upper stages are not considered payload. You’ve described nothing that’s unique to the Shuttle orbiter. You’re just misapplying terminology.

    “It is also quite safe to say this is why a SDLV can launch ~75mT into orbit.”

    Sure, but so can an Atlas V Phase 2. Or a Falcon X. Etc.

    “If you would like to know more about various responsibilities of ‘Programs’ and ‘Projects’ there is ample information available. For example STS is a Program. It consists of various project offices, some of which are Orbiter, ET, SRB and SSME.”

    So what? If you build an SDHLV, you’re still going to need produce ETs (or ET-derived cores), SRBs (4- or 5-segment), SSMEs, and most of the pieces of the Orbiter, including the avionics and a payload bay/shroud and associated carriers. Regardless of whether you call them programs, project, sub-projects, or medieval baronies, all of those elements and all of those offices will be needed.

    “… you begin to contradict yourself and are saying things like “even if” this or that.”

    Reread my post. I only pointed out that an HLV doesn’t compete in the commercial marketplace, “even” if your scenario about NASA incurring costs to maintain an HLV capability at ULA turns out to be true. That doesn’t mean that I think NASA has to incur those costs.

    Just because I accept a hypothetical to prove that it’s not relevant, that doesn’t mean that I think the hypothetical is true.

    “I’m quite confident in what I am saying…”

    Well, good for you. But confidence does not equal accuracy.

    “… and there is no need for the hostility.”

    Where did I express “hostility” in my prior response? Specifically?

    “As I said, it is not that an EELV-based HLV is not technically possible,”

    Actually, you didn’t say that. You argued that an EELV-derived HLV is, if not technically impossible, very hard to achieve because it requires the development of a new LV family. I showed that’s not the case because there are EELV-derived HLVs, like Atlas V Phase 2, that would be part of the existing EELV families (Atlas V in this case).

    “there are just issues that first must be addressed and just one of those issues are cost.”

    Again, that’s not what you said. You didn’t only claim that just “cost” was the issue. You claimed that NASA “subsidies” to an HLV provider like ULA were the issue.

    “You also are wrong on many fronts.”

    Where’s your evidence? I havn’t seen any.

    FWIW…

  • Coastal Ron

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    That is why it quite safe to say the orbiter is a payload that carries a payload.

    Maybe you see this as a philosophical point, but in reality the orbiter is a reusable carrier, i.e. a space truck. If it’s mission is to put payload in space, then it’s effectiveness is the end result of what is left in space at the end of it’s mission, not the total mass in space during it’s mission.

    That’s not to say that an SDLV wouldn’t have a mass-to-orbit advantage over the current orbiters, because it would. But you can’t call the Shuttle a heavy lifter, because it maxes out around 25 usable tons to orbit. It’s the end result that matters, not the effort.

  • Dennis Berube

    First I agree the one thing shuttle did not do was lower cost to orbit. However the shuttle has been a very successful machine, try and deny that. Oler that is all you harp on is NASAs loss of crew. let me inform you, that indeed it will happen again and with commercial as well. Nothing is 100%. What will you say then when a commercial craft takes lives? Will you yell they are incompetent! I guess you figure the Apollo block one fire was also incompetence? It was oversight, which makes it alittle different.

  • Martijn Meijering

    However the shuttle has been a very successful machine, try and deny that.

    I have never denied that, and in a sense I think it is the orbiter that contains the most promising part of the Shuttle stack. It is often maligned as inefficient, and it is true that an SDLV is more efficient on a cost/kg basis. The thing is, it can only achieve that cost/kg by launching propellant, something for which you don’t need an HLV. It would have been nice if some of the Orbiter technologies could have been reused in an OSP, but it is too late for that now. Dreamchaser may carry on some Shuttle legacy. Orion can do that too, to a degree, although an XM would have been better.

    But whatever merits the Shuttle has, it doesn’t warrant a monopoly and the monopoly for SLS imposed by Congress is even worse.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MichaelC wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    No criticism like this can be taken seriously while promoting the idea that for profit industry can regulate itself any better.

    who are you addressing that to? It cannot be me since I have never promoted self regulation alone as some answer to the issues of human spaceflight.

    With competent rules and regulatory bodies the commercial airline industry (as well as quite a few others) has found a nice balance between industry self regulation and government oversight.

    The off shore drilling industry (as I’ve noted in another post) is a poster child for Bush era regulation capabilities…but there is a better balance to strike.

    Finally I would note this. I am being kind by addressing “a failure to self regulate” in terms of the Challenger and Columbia loss as well as the many near misses in between. It would be criminal in any other industry for someone to “fly” with a known malfunction that got worse in the conditions that it was being operated in. A basic foundation of flight safety is that one does not fly with known malfunctions in an environment that the known malfunctions get worse.

    That is also common sense.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dennis Berube wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Will you yell they are incompetent! I guess you figure the Apollo block one fire was also incompetence? It was oversight, which makes it alittle different.

    The Apollo 1 fire is a completely different event then the two shuttle losses and the various near misses in between.

    It was not an oversight to fly with O rings that had a demonstrated decision not to seat well in cold weather and then fly in the coldest weather to date.

    No, they worked at making that decision. Just as they worked at ignoring the foam strike on Columbia’s leading edge.

    As for commercial.

    I have no doubt that there will be crew/passenger losses. If they are for the same “reasons” that the orbiters were lost, the company will either do a clean sweep of the goofballs who made that decision or go out of business.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    no didnt see the sarcasm

    Robert

  • Mike Snyder

    Tom,

    If you do not think you are being a little more combative than necessary in this “debate”, that is fine. I can accept that and just deal with it appropriately.

    I assure you I am not “misapplying terminology”. The reason is because, minus the orbiter, and using the ET core, SRBs and SSMEs you can inject ~75 mT into LEO. So that is why, I called the orbiter a payload that carries a payload. Clearly it is more than that and also serves as an operational platform in space that can serve a variety of purposes but perhaps now you see my point. If you don’t, that’s fine too.

    With respect to STS, the historical budget is ~ 3 billion a year. Sure it varies but the program cun run fine on that. That is for everything. Again, Orbiter Project, is a large percentage of that cost which will automatically go away when STS is retired. The incremental costs for an ET (what it takes to build a new one) are approximately 70 million per tank. Honestly, I am not sure what it is for SRB and SSME and do not want to feed false data, so I will not be able to say right now. However, given the SDLV rocket will only be a cog in the greater machine, it by itself will not be burdened with all the costs of an entire program (meaning what it costs to achieve all the goals the program is charged with completing)

    I also believe it is a bit overdramatic to characterize that a payload shroud will be anywhere near the equivalent of the orbiter. Finally, much of the technology to build and operate a SDLV exists today within the logistics warehouse. That inventory will be used to the best of ability to minimize costs for as long as possible, since there will be no other use anyway. While true eventually there will be new-build production necessary, there is nothing to say we cannot take advantage of systems in existance and they will not need to be qualified to the same rigor or lifetime as the current orbiter 100 mission requirement.

    All that to say, and it is up to you of course to believe me or not because I am fine either way, that an SLS Project will be significantly less than the STS Program.

    Now, again, back to the EELVs. I did say, and have said, that an EELV-based HLV is technically possible. What possible reason would I have for saying it’s not possible? Now, maybe I didn’t say it in post as a direct reply to you, that’s possible and frankly that is in the noice, but I also assume you have read my posts. I assumed that, and maybe that was a bad assumption on my part, because you replying to a post of mine not even directed at you is what started this “debate”.

    Now if you want more for what I have been saying, fine I will provide it. Go hear:

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/361835main_08%20-%20ULA%20%201.0_Augustine_Public_6_17_09_final_R1.pdf

    Page 10 shows the EELV evolution. If you would specifically like to talk Atlas V, Phase 2, five meter cores are now necessary, along with a new MLP at a minimum.

    If you go here, to section A.2.1, page 372:

    http://www.unitedlaunchalliance.com/site/docs/product_cards/guides/AtlasVUsersGuide2010.pdf

    you will see the current core is 3.8 meters in diameter.

    While there is nothing “wrong”, and it is just a name after all, with still calling it Atlas V, from the Augustine charts you clearly see there is a range of vehicles, or family if you will, for the now-modular Atlas V, phase 2.

    Again, while it is certainly possible, this now means you have to qualify this entire range, or family, of vehicles. While it is true there should be a fair amount of commonality, this same arguement can also apply to an SDLV.

    The other questions, I have proposed have to do, again, with policy in general. Again, who pays to derive an entire range, or family, of the Atlas V phase 2? Should NASA burden the cost alone? What will the DOD say about that and any requirements NASA would levy, legitimately if they are picking up the price or even just part of it?

    What about other launch providers? ULA is already being funded by the DOD to maintain a minimum capability, which is legit for national defense reasons. Hypothetically, NASA just paid all, or a significant sum, to give ULA a modular capability. They will also have to pay some way or the other, this is what I called a subsidy, to maintain that HLV capability. This is part of maintaining “certification”. Will the other launch providers like that? I don’t know but if I were SpaceX, Orbital, etc I might take issue with that because the government (DOD and NASA) *might* be giving them an unfair advantage in the market where there are customers outside of NASA.

    So, as I have now said more than once, I believe these are legitimate questions that need to be addressed and no one, at least in public, has these answers. I’m not saying an EELV-based HLV is impossible or even “bad” but in the absense of these answers, there is no way to conclusively say SDLV is a worse option. ULA has also said they harbor no ill-will to an SDLV so it will be what it will be.

    I trust this clarifies things. Thank you.

  • Mike Snyder

    Ron,

    I very much believe I can call the Shuttle a heavy lifter. It lifts the orbiter, and the payload it carries, into orbit to do useful work. It is an operations platform. The mass of the orbiter is there, in space, so that it can complete its entire mission profile.

    It is an HLV, and the shuttle is more than the orbiter, because all the components beside the orbiter lift ~75 mT into LEO.

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    First I agree the one thing shuttle did not do was lower cost to orbit. However the shuttle has been a very successful machine, try and deny that.

    My perspective regarding the Shuttle has always been that it’s been a wonderful program – the best our tax dollars could buy! But that reliance on Shuttle kept non-governmental transportation alternatives from developing, so it’s time to shut it down, throw a party, and congratulate all involved.

    Like anything that has been funded for 30 years, there have been many good and bad things.

    Losing 40% of the fleet to accidents, as well as 14 people, is definitely part of the bad. But there is lots of other stuff that we’ll be adding in there as the Shuttle program passes into history. One of them will probably be how we tolerated such a fragile design for so long.

    On the good side, we certainly racked up a lot of time in space, and we had a chance to perfect (or at least try out) lots of space hardware and assembly techniques. I think the ISS assembly will turn out to be the most significant accomplishment of the Shuttle era, even though it’s dominate use in the assembly contributed greatly to the total cost.

  • No criticism like this can be taken seriously while promoting the idea that for profit industry can regulate itself any better.

    No criticism like this can be take seriously when no one has proposed that the for-profit industry regulate itself. It is regulated by the FAA.

    Are you some kind of masochist who enjoys making a fool of himself on line, where everyone can watch, like a car wreck?

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    ‘ Dennis Berube wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 7:02 pm
    First I agree the one thing shuttle did not do was lower cost to orbit. However the shuttle has been a very successful machine, try and deny that.’

    Depends on how you define ‘success’ doesn’t it? If by ‘successful’ you include cost, then no it hasn’t. I consider a program ‘successful’ when it has delivered it’s stated objectives in an effective and efficient manner. That definition means you include cost in your deliberations.
    I for one, don’t consider the Shuttle Program successful and my reasons are:
    1. Did not lower $/kg to orbit;
    2. Did not make HSF safer;
    3. Did not meet annual flight targets;
    4. Did not make spaceflight routine;
    5. Did not provide a system that was able to evolve to next generation vehicles.

    My $0.02 worth.

  • First I agree the one thing shuttle did not do was lower cost to orbit. However the shuttle has been a very successful machine, try and deny that.

    My dog isn’t a good companion, but he’s a very successful pet, try and deny that.

  • Matt Wiser

    The shuttle has been a very successful bird. No capsule could do what it did: launch satellites and interplanetary probes, let alone Hubble and the Chandra; perform satellite servicing and retrevial, fly spacelab, and not only assemble a space station, but enable crew transfer and resupply. Not bad at all. And Dennis is right: there will be loss of crew events with Commercial. It will happen one day-and no one or nothing is perfect. The only way you get perfect safety is not flying. Which seems to be Oler’s angle all along.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    MichaelC wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 3:45 pm
    (NASA HSF) is simply unable to regulate itself in a very effective manner.

    ‘No criticism like this can be taken seriously while promoting the idea that for profit industry can regulate itself any better. You are begging the question since there is no market for anything in space except telecommunications satellites.’

    I won’t get into the regulation bit other than to say that regulatory agencies are a part of doing business no matter what country you’re in so you may as well get used to it. The effectiveness of the agency tends to be determined by a) the industry, and b) the government.
    In terms of NASA and regulation, well I’ll point to Apollo One (refer post above), and two Shuttle disasters. These were brought about by well understood technical issues which were essentially ignored with the predictable results.

    With respect to the second statement concerning markets in space, presumably you have identified all possible markets and no others are to be discovered or developed. What an asinine thing to suggest. How do you know what will or will not be discovered or developed in the future. Get a grip.
    For starters, Bigelow is well on the way to developing an entirely new market in the form of his space stations based on facility leasing to governments, universities and other commercial enterprises. None of this is tourism and he’s stated that tourism would be a very minor part of the mix. Who knows what will come from that given it does eventuate.

  • Paul

    First I agree the one thing shuttle did not do was lower cost to orbit. However the shuttle has been a very successful machine, try and deny that.

    The purpose of the shuttle was to lower the cost of getting to orbit. Your first sentence therefore invalidates your second. The shuttle was a Failure with a capital F, and no attempts to redraw the bullseye around where the arrow actually landed will change that fact.

  • DCSCA

    @Vladislaw wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 1:24 pm Design away. Don’t misunderstand but give some thought to putting a dwindling level of resources to use where it can do the most good. Just don’t expect those designs to become reality in this era. Nor expect any deep space projects and heavy lift vehicles to become operational for a decade or two, if then. There are some serious, fundamental changes going on in the economics and priorities of the U.S. and spaceflight is slipping further and further down the list of having any relevant value or seen as a smart use of dwindlnig resources– borrowed resources. It’s a luxury item for a country that is borrowing billions and billions of dollars to keep operating. So chatter about fuel depots and trips to asteroids is just out of sync with the down to earth realities facing the United States. Design all you want but these projects are never going to be funded. And it doesnt do much to be poo-pooing ‘tiny capsules’ as Soyuz has been operating fine for 40-plus years keeping Russians in space. That avenue of technology may be all that can be afforded in this era.

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 11:47 am – Jack the Ripper, no. Dutch the Reagan, yes. FYI, methods of ‘cost cutting’ are part of ‘managment incompetence’ and were part of the mix of poor decisions made by managers not experienced in operating a for profit operation. That’s what brought down both Challenger and years later, Columbia. The evidence of mounting problems in a number of areas was there and ignored or kicked down the road one time too many. Stopping the program in 1985 to fix mounting problems as they were robbing parts from one orbiter to keep another flying speaks volumes and was not economically appealing in the Reagan days when the STS system was pushed to be a profit center and had a full manifest. An R&D organization under less pressure to deliver for customers would have. After Challenger, that commerical potential evaporated. Economics was part of the mix as well with Columbia. If you expect to apply commerical aviation business models to spaceflight, expect lean margins, no peanuts for passengers and the risks to rise accordingly.

    “Good regulation by government agencies is designed to prevent the scenario that you mention.”Yet it doesn’t. Commerical aircraft crash and kill passengers. So will commercial spacecraft. Bet on it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 25th, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    It lifts the orbiter, and the payload it carries, into orbit to do useful work.

    If you want to compare the Shuttle to an HLV or current launcher, then you are comparing payload-to-orbit, and the Shuttle maxes out around 25 tons of useful payload. It doesn’t matter that you reuse part of the launch system.

    Now, if you want to compare the Shuttles ability to be a temporary laboratory or construction shack in space, that is something different. But an HLV won’t do those things, so that can’t be a basis of comparison.

    Parts of the Shuttle system can be used to make a heavy lifter, but regardless of how much initial mass makes it to orbit, the current Shuttle system is only equivalent to Delta IV Heavy/Proton class lifters in what is left in space – which is usually all the customer cares about.

  • Mike Snyder

    Ron,

    Come on, really. The “Shuttle” is not the orbiter. The “Shuttle” is the entire system. The orbiter carries a payload. The orbiter ways approximately 50 mT, reuse of the orbiter has nothing to do with this because it would still inject the same mass regardless. The orbiter goes into space in order to work their and fullfill it requirements. It carries with it, approximately 25 mT of cargo.

    You add those two numbers together and you magically get the ~75 mT that a SDLV can lift. That is HLV-class it is just a different concept of oeprations and the rockets you are comparing it to cannot carry out the same operations a the orbiter. Obviously that is the differences in design.

  • Mike Snyder

    PS, sorry for the grammatical errors above. Was moving quick…. ;)

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 8:13 am

    that is the rhetoric that is pushed up by the NASA is OK group

    ie that money had something to do with Challenger and Columbia and the over one dozen near misses in between.

    and it is simply nonesense for several reasons.

    First the program “survived” each of the events and more money came to fix the problems. There is no evidence that had NASA HSF come to the appropriate people and said “we need this for flight safety” that “this” would not have been forthcoming.

    Second there were a lot of near misses before and after Challenger (and for all we know Columbia) that both had nothing to do with what killed each orbiter and with what did kill each orbiter. They are all symptoms of the same management flaw…

    Third (and this is important) NASA HSF particularly in Challenger made the decision to “launch” in the coldest weather ever, despite a lot of people at Thiokal (ATK) saying “dont” when all they had to do was postpone the launch a few days…and postponments are not that “uncommon” so no one really would have cared.

    In the case of Columbia with a “known problem’ it wasnt money that stopped them from taking the problem seriously it was management.

    It wasnt money that forced them to launch with a hydrogen leak that ran them out of fuel on the climb up the hill…which was good because had the engine kept burning it would have done worse.

    It was bad management.

    Dont make excuses for the jerks

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 2:55 am

    The shuttle has been a very successful bird. No capsule could do what it did: launch satellites and interplanetary probes, let alone Hubble ..

    it would have been cheaper to have launched a new Hubble each time the vehicle was visited.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Matt Wiser

    A new Hubble each time?? Talk about a waste. The telescope was designed to be serviced, and if needed, returned to earth. On-orbit servicing was a lot cheaper than building four or five new HSTs. At a billion dollars a pop for each one….what’s the better option? On-orbit servicing and upgrade-which was built into the design, or building and launching a new instrument when the old one failed? I think NASA and the scientific community have been well served with the former option. Then again, Oler’s living in a dream world, so….

  • Coastal Ron

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 11:18 am

    The “Shuttle” is the entire system. The orbiter carries a payload.

    Yes, and all I’m saying is that as a cargo carrier, “Shuttle” is in the same class as Delta IV Heavy/Proton. That the orbiter could be replaced with a more dedicated cargo carrier, one that increases the potential mass-to-orbit, is besides the point you were trying to make.

    We’re discussing this because you said “The orbiter is payload that carries a payload. EELV’s cannot put that much mass in orbit today.“, but the end result of the mass left in space by the orbiter is in the same range as existing launchers. You weren’t talking about SD-LV, but the Shuttle program.

    Regarding another thread, you were talking about shuttle stack costs. I think the ET cost you gave might be the DD250 value, but does not reflect the actual costs of the facilities and other costs related to the NASA facility that are separate. A 2007 press release about the LM contract stated:

    The cost plus award fee/incentive fee contract will conclude Sept. 30, 2010, and brings the total value of the contract, awarded October 2000, to $2.94 billion. The contract calls for the delivery of 17 external tanks to NASA.

    That would make the true cost of an ET around $173M/each. At a lower production rate, that per-unit cost is going to go up quite a bit because of the fixed overhead facility costs.

    For the SRB’s, a news release in 2002 stated that ATK had a $2.4B contract for 35 sets of SRB’s (70 motors), so that would work out to $68.6M/flight. The original contract was awarded in 1998, so inflation and different launch rates will affect any SD-LV costs, mostly by increasing them.

    FWIW

  • Mike Snyder

    “It wasnt money that forced them to launch with a hydrogen leak that ran them out of fuel on the climb up the hill…which was good because had the engine kept burning it would have done worse.”

    While there is much to choose from, lets start with this. What in the world are you talking about here?

  • Mike Snyder

    Ron,

    I think we’ll just agree to disagree on the “payload carrying a payload” discussion. I am quite comfortable with my terminology and trust others also understand the point I am making.

    Thanks for finding those press releases. Relative to ET, please note that I said incremental costs, not fixed costs. Even the 3 billion over a decade for the size of the factory seems fairly reasonable. Same thing for the boosters.

  • byeman

    “A new Hubble each time?? Talk about a waste. The telescope was designed to be serviced, and if needed, returned to earth. On-orbit servicing was a lot cheaper than building four or five new HSTs. At a billion dollars a pop for each one….what’s the better option? On-orbit servicing and upgrade-which was built into the design, or building and launching a new instrument when the old one failed?’

    Wrong, Oler is correct. The servicing missions were over a billion apiece. The better and cheaper option would have been to design five non serviceable HST’a with different instruments and to place it in a better orbit (L1/L2) than LEO with an ELV, even with the first one completely failing.

    The shuttle and serviceability put too many requirements on the HST that drove its cost way up. An HST designed for an ELV would have been magnitude cheaper.

    Servicing HST brought a dirty, outgassing vehicle in proximity of the telescope. Not a good environment for an optical device

    The shuttle constrained HST to LEO, a bad orbit for telescopes. Proof? Where are all other spacebased optical telescopes at?

  • Ferris Valyn

    Mr. Wiser – when you figure that the price of shuttle launch total (adding in fixed costs) is around a billion to 2 Billion per flight, the numbers seem to favor building a new Hubble each time

  • Mike Snyder

    Ferris Valyn wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    That’s a bit of an exaggeration. For example we flew 5 times in 2009. and the budget was ~2.9 billion. So, a single flight cannot nearly account for the entire program budget.

  • Vladislaw

    “That’s a bit of an exaggeration. For example we flew 5 times in 2009. and the budget was ~2.9 billion. So, a single flight cannot nearly account for the entire program budget.”

    I do not recall what NASA official said it but it was something to the effect of, ‘the first flight cost 5 billion, everyflight after is free.’

  • Major Tom

    “I assure you I am not “misapplying terminology”. The reason is because, minus the orbiter, and using the ET core, SRBs and SSMEs you can inject ~75 mT into LEO.”

    Doesn’t work. Even with the SSMEs taken off the orbiter, an SDHLV stack still needs the Shuttle’s: 1) payload bay (or a replacement payload shroud); 2) carriers (or another payload interface); and 3) avionics (or replacement avionics). Without these orbiter systems (and probably others I’ve forgotten), an SDHLV stack can’t carry a payload or even fly straight.

    “So that is why, I called the orbiter a payload that carries a payload.”

    It’s ridiculous to call the orbiter a “payload”. No other “payload” on any other launch vehicle provides the launch vehicle’s main propulsion, GN&C, and payload carrier. No other “payload” on any other launch vehicle is necessary for the vehicle to reach orbit, carry payloads, and fly straight. It’s like calling the engine, steering wheel, and seats in a car the “passenger”.

    “With respect to STS, the historical budget is ~ 3 billion a year.”

    No. Before the program drawdown began in 2008, the Shuttle budget ran $4-5 billion per year. The Shuttle budget was running at $4.5 billion and change in FY 2005 and FY 2006, for example:

    nasa.gov/pdf/107493main_FY_06_budget_summ.pdf

    “The incremental costs for an ET (what it takes to build a new one) are approximately 70 million per tank.”

    The relevant Michoud line, workforce, and suppliers have been shut down and laid off. Incremental costs no longer apply. You have to bear the cost of reassembling the Michoud workforce and its suppliers before you can even begin to consider incremental costs.

    “However, given the SDLV rocket will only be a cog in the greater machine, it by itself will not be burdened with all the costs of an entire program (meaning what it costs to achieve all the goals the program is charged with completing)”

    This is still arbitrary, meaningless gibberish. I can say that the existing Space Shuttle is only a “cog” in the greater human space flight program, and that the Shuttle is not “burdened” with the costs of the International Space Station. But that doesn’t change the costs of the Space Shuttle.

    “…an SLS Project will be significantly less than the STS Program.”

    How do you know? You havn’t even defined what you mean by “SLS”. Which Space Launch System? A side-mount design? An inline design? Jupiter 130? Jupiter 232? Ares IV? Ares V? All these Shuttle-derived HLVs have radically different costs.

    “If you would specifically like to talk Atlas V, Phase 2, five meter cores are now necessary”

    Atlas V, Phase 2 cores are built using the existing Delta IV tooling, workforce, and suppliers. Per the very chart you were referencing, it’s a “low-risk development”.

    Contrast that with SDHLV, which would require the Michoud workforce and its suppliers to be reassembled before you could even think about restarting ET production (sidemount) or building an ET alternative (inline).

    The former is going to be less expensive than the latter. And that doesn’t even take account of the fact that the Atlas and Delta workforce, tooling, and suppliers have other paying payloads and customers to spread their costs across that the SDHLV doesn’t.

    “… along with a new MLP at a minimum.”

    The Atlas V MLP is tiny compared to the Shuttle MLP. It’s a handful railcars with a pad on top. See:

    trackmobile.com/atlasvphotoalbum.htm

    Per the very chart you were referencing, adding a couple more railcars and enlarging the pad is a “low-risk development”.

    Making changes to the massive, one-of-a-kind Apollo/Shuttle MLP crawlers to accommodate an SDHLV is going to be more expensive. And again, that doesn’t take account of the fact that the Atlas MLP workforce and infrastructure have other paying payloads and customers to spread their costs across that the SDHLV MLP doesn’t.

    “from the Augustine charts you clearly see there is a range of vehicles, or family if you will, for the now-modular Atlas V, phase 2. Again, while it is certainly possible, this now means you have to qualify this entire range, or family, of vehicles.”

    Only one of those is a 70-ton HLV. (The one on the right.) The rest would not be built (or qualified) unless there were customers for them. Everyone else would continue to use the operational 20-ton vehicles.

    “Again, who pays to derive an entire range, or family, of the Atlas V phase 2?”

    No one unless they have customer requirements for it. You don’t have to build every Atlas V Phase 2 variant to get the HLV for NASA.

    “Hypothetically, NASA just paid all, or a significant sum, to give ULA a modular capability.”

    ULA has a “modular capability” today. Atlas V alone has 17 variants, 8 with flight history. Delta IV also comes in several variants.

    “They will also have to pay some way or the other, this is what I called a subsidy, to maintain that HLV capability.”

    This is a goofy argument. Today NASA doesn’t pay for or subsidize every variant of the existing Atlas V family to get access to the few Atlas V variants that NASA launches its robotic missions on. In the future, NASA wouldn’t pay for or subsidize every variant of the Atlas V family to get access to an Atlas V Phase 2 HLV.

    NASA doesn’t pay for or subsidize vehicle variants it never uses, and it would be stupid for NASA to do so.

    “Will the other launch providers like that? I don’t know but if I were SpaceX, Orbital, etc I might take issue with that because the government (DOD and NASA) *might* be giving them an unfair advantage in the market where there are customers outside of NASA.”

    If NASA is buying HLVs, they’re not subsidizing any vehicles in the non-NASA launch market. SpaceX, OSC, etc. would have nothing to complain about.

    And even if they lost an HLV contract to ULA in the first round, a company like SpaceX would rather see NASA compete its HLV contracts every five-odd years than have NASA lock up its HLV market in a SDHLV for the next 25+ years.

    “So, as I have now said more than once, I believe these are legitimate questions”

    They’re goofy questions based on illogical assumptions and a lack of evidence.

    “… there is no way to conclusively say SDLV is a worse option.”

    Sure there is. An SDHLV is going to substantially more expensive for NASA to build and operate than an HLV that leverages an LV workforce and infrastructure, like EELV or Falcon, that share costs with other payloads and customers. The findings of the Augustine Committee bear this out.

    “ULA has also said they harbor no ill-will to an SDLV so it will be what it will be.”

    ULA is not going to insult their customers at NASA publicly, regardless of what the company may say or think internally.

    FWIW…

  • Mike Snyder

    Vladislaw wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    That would be essentially true if the program cost that much.

  • Someone recently added up the total Shuttle program life-cycle costs, in current-year dollars, and divided by the total number of flights. It came out well north of a billion per.

  • Mike Snyder

    Rand Simberg wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Total life-cycle are of course the key words there. That likely means development, RTF and just regular yearly program costs together and dividing by number of launches.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    I do not recall what NASA official said it but it was something to the effect of, ‘the first flight cost 5 billion, everyflight after is free.

    The Shuttle Program Manager stated earlier this year that it cost $200M/month to run the program, regardless if they flew or not. I don’t remember the exact number, but I think he said that incremental costs are added for flights #3 and beyond, but I don’t know what those are.

    Keep in mind that we don’t know what the $200M/month covers, and some payments to contractors may come from a different pot. For instance, the contract LM has to run the Michoud ET facility and produce ET’s includes payments for product (external tanks) and for maintaining the facility. Since the Shuttle program could not continue without the Michoud facility, then those costs are really part of the overhead for the program. It’s hard to know if those types of costs are included in the $200M/month figure, or are covered somewhere else in the budget.

    I think the report that Rand mentions might be the Feb. 2005 one by R. Pielke Jr., and can be found here:

    http://cstpr.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/space_policy/000346space_shuttle_costs.html

    In part, the report stated:

    The data show that the space shuttle program has cost $145 billion over its existence and about $112 billion since the program became operational. The average cost/flight has been about $1.3 billion over the life of the program and about $750 million over its most recent five years of operations.

    As another point of reference, the USA contract that was awarded in 1996 was valued for $7B for 6 years of Shuttle support, or $97.2M/month. That is the only clean contract info I can find, since add-ons & extensions make it an accounting mess to follow (a plus for the contractor). The responsibilities were/are:

    The Space Flight Operations Contract includes responsibility for the orbiter, flight and ground operations, and logistics support. USA’s operations at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida encompass ground processing of the Space Shuttles including preparing the vehicles for flight, stacking the solid rocket boosters and mounting the external tank, mating these elements to the orbiter to complete the launch-ready vehicle, conducting launch operations, and deservicing the vehicles after landing. Mission operations performed in Houston include training the astronauts, operating the Shuttle flight simulators, maintaining facilities at the Johnson Space Center including the Mission Control Center (MCC), operating the MCC, planning mission schedules, and performing flight design including ascent, on-orbit and descent analyses. Under subcontract to USA, Rockwell will continue to provide Shuttle modifications and engineering support for integration and operations activities.

    I hope that helps quantify the issues…

  • Coastal Ron

    Mike Snyder wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I think we’ll just agree to disagree on the “payload carrying a payload” discussion.

    Agreed.

  • Martijn Meijering

    It’s ridiculous to call the orbiter a “payload”.

    Used as a crew transporter (or cargo return vehicle) or mini space station (including repair missions) it is perfectly legitimate to count the orbiter as payload.

  • Actually, any second stage is a payload of the first stage. That’s how performance requirements are calculated.

  • Coastal Ron

    Matt Wiser wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    A new Hubble each time?? Talk about a waste. The telescope was designed to be serviced, and if needed, returned to earth. On-orbit servicing was a lot cheaper than building four or five new HSTs.

    There is a general rule of thumb for consumer products that if it costs close to 50% of the original price to repair something, it’s better to replace it.

    Hubble was I like to call a “learning moment”. When it was originally funded in 1978, it was supposed to cost $36M. Subsequent changes, schedule slips, and things like the Challenger accident eventually raised the cost to over $2.5B. However, the first of any product is always the most expensive, and it is very likely that follow-on telescopes could have been serially manufactured and launched on existing commercial launchers (it only weighs 12 tons) for a much lower overall program cost than what eventually took place.

    Now you may look at the situation from an emotional standpoint Matt, but I look at it from a dollars & cents one – how much does it cost to accomplish a goal?

    Those five servicing missions Hubble needed cost us at least $4B just for the Shuttle, and that could have paid to put new Hubble’s in orbit at least twice during that same period of time.

    Unfortunately Hubble was the first of it’s kind, and now we know not to do that again. But if we could go back in time, it would have been far less expensive to build and launch a series of Hubble telescopes than to build one and keep fixing it using the Shuttle.

  • MichaelC

    “With respect to the second statement concerning markets in space, presumably you have identified all possible markets and no others are to be discovered or developed. What an asinine thing to suggest. How do you know what will or will not be discovered or developed in the future. Get a grip.”

    Not as asinine as suggesting that for profit industry can regulate itself any better than the government. You are begging the question since there is no market for anything in space except telecommunications satellites.’

    Tourism is doomed; not enough rich people to sustain a market. Half those “reservations” being cited are B.S. What else? The ISS and government payloads. That is it besides sats.

    I would say you are the one braying.

  • Matt Wiser

    Ferris, There’s no way in the ’90s that NASA would’ve gotten the funding to build an HST-2, or -3 and so on. NASA got more than its money’s worth with the one that was orbited. And it demonstrated the abilities of HSF: on-orbit servicing and repair of a satellite. Which has been done several times in the ’80s and ’90s. Try doing that with a robot….But then, Oler’s living in a dream world.

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Used as a crew transporter (or cargo return vehicle) or mini space station (including repair missions) it is perfectly legitimate to count the orbiter as payload.

    I don’t see it that way.

    The Shuttle orbiter is nothing more than an airplane carrying cargo and passengers to a remote location, where it disgorges cargo, and then returns with it’s passengers. That people sleep and work in it does not change it’s function.

    If you look at the specs for a airplane, you will see how much weight (fuel + cargo + passengers) it can carry, but the aircraft itself is not listed as part of the possible “payload”. Even if I stick JATO rockets on it, the plane is still not payload.

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 26th, 2010 at 12:45 pm If you want to believe that economic pressures were not a factor in the managment mindset at NASA, an R&D organization by design pushed into becoming a profit center with a managment structure unfamiliar with it, fine. But it was. Those factors and deficiencies were part of the decision making process at NASA and will be even more in play at commercial space operators where profits are the goal. The engineering problems with shuttlw began surfacing with STS-2. Yet STS-5 was declared the first operational flight. The rest is tragic history. You’ll get no argument about managment not being held accountable at NASA ( most of the managers who made the wrong decisions on these shuttle accidents should have been fired) — or at other government agencies as well. Similar examples of low accountability in the private sector abound, especially, where its only stockholders that managment is beholden to.

  • Not as asinine as suggesting that for profit industry can regulate itself any better than the government.

    The only asinine suggestion is that anyone has proposed such a thing. Can you point to any post in which someone has? If not, then ‘fess up to proposing a straw man. The FAA regulates private launch.

    We won’t hold our collective breath.

  • Martijn Meijering

    @Ron:

    If all the Shuttle is used for is to deploy satellites (and that hasn’t happened in a long time), then it is reasonable to count only the satellite as payload. But on a crew rotation mission you would otherwise have had to launch a separate crew module. You might say that the combined launch vehicle + spacecraft is itself a vehicle with only the crew as payload. But it wouldn’t be fair to compare just a launch vehicle with the Shuttle, which is part launch vehicle, part spacecraft. Of course, for some roles this combination isn’t cost-effective compared to separate vehicles. And when the Shuttle delivers the PMM it is doing crew rotation and delivery of a module in one launch , something which would otherwise have required two. Still not cost-effective, but a relevant difference.

  • Paul

    Used as a crew transporter (or cargo return vehicle) or mini space station (including repair missions) it is perfectly legitimate to count the orbiter as payload.

    Not really. The key here is that for the other launchers, the paying customer has almost complete flexibility in determing what the payload is. For the shuttle, if you count the orbiter as payload, the customer no long had that flexibility. They got the orbiter, even if they didn’t want it.

    The reduction in flexibility has a cost that is not properly accounted for when simply totaling up “payload” capacity.

  • Coastal Ron

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ October 27th, 2010 at 4:27 am

    If all the Shuttle is used for is to deploy satellites…

    I think the original premise for this debate has fallen by the wayside.

    My sliver of the debate regards whether the Shuttle could be called a heavy lifter. I say no, because the end result in space after the orbiter flies home is mass of such size that Delta IV Heavy or Proton could have put it there (~25 tons). If all you want to do is put mass in space, then the Shuttle is not a heavy lifter.

    If you want to put people into space, the Shuttle maxes out at 6 passengers and 2 crew. We don’t know the crew requirements for the next gen capsules (0, 1, 2, etc.), but we do know that they can serve as lifeboats in addition to doing the transportation. All the Shuttle can do is swap out personnel, it can’t really add any to the ISS (except for less than two weeks).

    Where the Shuttle has a clear advantage is as a mini space station while in orbit, and in the ability to bring along a huge amount of equipment for the mission. This capability will be sad to lose, but the ISS is a much better platform for performing any future work of this kind.

    I think our perceptions of the Shuttle will end up changing once we start launching lots of commercial cargo & crew flights. Once that flexibility is realized, then the inflexibility of the Shuttle will become more apparent…

    My $0.02

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